Israeli Opera Verdi: Il Trovatore Opera House January 11 Il Trovatore, like many operas, is a tale of love and intrigue. Verdi, however, takes this opera one step further by using the melodramatic tear-jerker to condemn the oppressive aristocracy and convey a message of social justice. Despite his agenda, he steered clear of blatant banalities and compensated for the story's platitudes with a glorious score. Among the this opera's most impressive elements are Stephen Lawless' direction and Benoit Dugardyn's set. The sets were imaginative, suggestive and in impeccable taste. The skillful manipulation of curtains in dividing the stage into various, constantly changing spaces of action, was a stroke of genius. The chorus took to the stage in thoughtfully stylized movements, and fighting scenes were effectively choreographed without exaggeration. As for the singers, Tea Demurishvili was an overpowering stage personality as Azucena. With a rich mezzo-soprano voice, her arias were masterpieces of emotional expression. In her final scene, she succeeded in performing the opera's shattering climax where many of her predecessors failed. One could also see why Leonora (Michele Crider) fell in love with Manrico (performed by Piero Giuliacci). His radiant tenor was superb. Less understandable was Manrico's love for Crider's soprano. It was too bright and strong for comfort, especially in her higher registers. At times, she seemed to function on the erroneous assumption that intense emotion ought to be conveyed by a loud, shouting voice. In the role of the Count, Albert Schadigullin's appealing baritone was not dark and menacing enough to convey his character's evil. The chorus, however, was noteworthy for its energetic, sonorous and rhythmically accentuated singing. The Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, conducted by Massimiliano Steffanelli, is also to be commended for its effective contribution to the exciting action, dramatic effects, and lyric atmosphere.