Everyone knows Verdi’s Traviata but his other T opera Trovatore isn’t quite so famous. And there are reasons for that. Although it has some fine music it can be a bit of a meandering mess on stage.

Director Elke Neidhardt was determined that her Trovatore wasn’t going to drag.

The problem with Trovatore is it’s so bitsy, it’s got lots of short scenes. So [designer] Michael Scott-Mitchell managed to create an extremely versatile set with moving walls that open seamlessly one scene into another, so it moves at a great pace, which it has to, Neidhardt says.

German-born Neidhardt has worked extensively in both Europe and Australia but is now permanently based here.

I missed Sydney, she says of her return to Australia after working in Europe for nearly a decade. I think it’s pretty hard to beat, as long as you can travel regularly.
But she is aware that the operatic cultures here and in Europe are very different.

You have to be a lot more cautious in your style here -¦ it’s more old fashioned here, more traditional. If you are controversial here, you tend to get attacked, but that’s the way it is, she says.

It doesn’t matter -“ I think you have to be controversial, she adds with a laugh.

Neidhardt’s Trovatore is now on its fourth outing after successful seasons in Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. She has updated the opera, setting it in the time of the Spanish civil war.

I find that if we move the story a bit closer in the memory space of people it becomes more interesting than if it is set a long time ago -¦ I don’t update if it doesn’t make sense but this one -“ the more I went it to it the more I thought, absolutely no problem to update it.

You rarely now see new productions in Europe that are not updated, no matter what they are, or if they are not updated they are abstracted.

I found that the problems in this opera fitted like a glove in the setting of the Spanish civil war. For example Gypsies were outlawed under the fascists. The Gypsies were hunted down under Franco as they were under Hitler, Neidhardt says.

The opera is designed by Michael Scott-Mitchell whom she describes as Australia’s most daring, innovative designer. Mitchell has worked extensively in opera but is probably best remembered for the Olympic cauldron. He doesn’t shy away from anything, Neidhardt says.

Opera Australia’s Trovatore runs until 1 September. Bookings 9318 8200.

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