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Verdi underrated

June 05, 2004

Mark SWED claims that Verdi's masterpiece "Il Trovatore" "is not credible drama. It can, however, be credible opera" (" 'Trovatore' That's About the Singing," May 29). Is Swed claiming here that musical drama is somehow inferior to regular or nonmusical drama (if so, a rather strange opinion for an opera critic to hold)? Surely if it's credible as opera it must be credible as drama, opera being fundamentally a dramatic form that expresses itself through music.

Verdi's purpose is not to write a veristic piece but to write a metaphysical drama along Shakespearean lines. His concerns are with the interplay of good and evil and how "good" characters cross over to the "other" side to further their ends and vice versa. He is as much interested in the ideas of salvation and redemption as Wagner but is predictably more succinct. The central event of the opera is the death of a child -- an event Verdi knew well, having lost both of his children to illness.

And how does Swed respond to all of this? By comparing the L.A. Opera production to a certain Marx Brothers movie that partially takes place backstage at a performance of "Il Trovatore." Is this really the only cultural reference he can bring to the table? If criticism has any legitimate purpose, it is to try to enlighten and educate. I fear Swed's review will have the opposite effect. I think it makes the opera look ridiculous, and I would hope that is not his intent.

Stephen Lawless

Lewes, Sussex


Stephen Lawless was the director of the L.A. Opera production of "Il Trovatore."

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