March 06, 2019

Jamie Barton Brings Vocal and Dramatic Fire to Azucena in Verdi’s IL TROVATORE

Winner of nearly every major international music award, the American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is a true force of nature who captivates audiences & critics around the world in a wide range of repertoire. At Lyric her roles have included the riveting royal rival Giovanna (Jane Seymour) in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (2014/15), the charming Magdalene in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (2012/13) and the velvet-voiced Dryade in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (2011/12). 

Now, for something completely different, Jamie brings her portrayal of Azucena, the dark and deeply troubled central figure in Verdi’s Il trovatore, which she has sung previously in Cincinnati and in Munich. She recently shared her thoughts about this powerful role.

You've portrayed several fierce, strong women over the course of your career so far. What are you looking forward to about your portrayal of Azucena at Lyric? What makes her a strong character?

“What I love about Azucena is her grit, her endurance, and her flaws. She has had an incredibly difficult life. She saw her mother die a horrific death, burned at the stake, which is certainly enough to cause some major PTSD. Her mother also commanded Azucena to avenge her, and in this frenzy, she threw a baby – who she thought was Count di Luna Senior's child – into the fire. It turned out to have been her own baby, so she kidnapped Count di Luna Senior's child and raised him as her own, as Manrico.

“Obviously, this woman has gone through hell, and is living in a world of trauma and guilt as a result. I have massive respect for a character with flaws, and I consider it a privilege to get to share her struggles – for me, imperfect characters hit a little closer to home. I may never have had to endure events at this level, but I have dealt with PTSD and guilt, and I think showing a human being going through human struggles is something that ends up being cathartic for the audience – and for us on stage!” 

In what ways does Azucena resemble other roles you've portrayed, dramatically and musically?

“I find the most musical correlation between Azucena and Eboli in Don Carlo – apt, since they're both Verdi characters! They're two very powerful women. Eboli wields political power, and Azucena is incredibly magnetic. Both are so blinded by their own missions that they can't see how devastating the repercussions will be.

“Truly, I can understand what drives Azucena more than what motivates Eboli. Despite the horror of what is revealed in the end, I believe this woman was pushed and prodded into doing what she felt she had to do. Given that her Act-Four music has such beauty and fragility woven into it, I've always wondered if Verdi looked upon Azucena with a sympathetic eye as well.”

You’ll be swept away by the hair-raising story, breathtaking music, and riveting performances of this Italian masterpiece. Don't miss it!

Main photo: Robert Kusel (Trovatore), Todd Rosenberg (Anna Bolena), Philip Groshong/Cincinnati Opera (Trovatore)