In on the Joke:
A Discussion of Cultural Criticism
Students will enjoy starting the class with an open discussion of the Met performance. What did they like? What didn’t they? Did anything surprise them? What would they like to see or hear again? What would they have done differently? This discussion will offer students an opportunity to review the notes on their My Highs & Lows sheets, as well as their thoughts about the Goya-inspired imagery in this Met production—in short, to see themselves as Il Trovatore experts.
As discussed in the Classroom Activity, Il Trovatore combines a relatively simple core plot with a rich back story. The result has prompted many to describe the story as confusing or improbable.
TIP: Examples can be found on the reproducible, “In on the Joke.” Make sure students can identify David McVicar, director of this production of Il Trovatore, who provides the last quotation on the sheet.
Now that students have seen Il Trovatore, they are, so to speak, in on the joke. They can apply their own expertise to the question: Does this opera make sense? Is it moving? Ridiculous? Neither? Perhaps both? In this discussion, be sure to prompt students to address specific aspects of Verdi’s opera and the Live in HD production, including:
relationship of on-stage action to off-stage action and back story
alignment of the score with the emotional tone of the libretto
the orchestra’s contribution
the staging, including the performers’ physical locations on stage and with respect to one another
the camera work in the HD transmission
The sidebar “Il Trovatore Parodies” mentions some famous parodies of Il Trovatore. Students might enjoy participating in this tradition by creating their own Il Trovatore graphic novels or comic books.
Successful parody involves exaggeration, allusion, and the setting of plot and characters in a new context sufficiently similar for a viewer or reader to recognize. By providing practice in the identification and development of narrative structure, this follow-up activity offers another route to examining the problematic storyline of Il Trovatore.