The curtain rises at the National Opera this Sunday on a lavish production of Verdi’s opera «Il Trovatore.» Currently celebrating its 60th anniversary, the theater has dedicated the opera’s premiere exclusively to all the artists who have collaborated with it over the years, so it will be by invitation only. Additional performances of «Il Trovatore» will be given on November 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18 and 23, December 28 and 30 and then on January 8 and 11 next year. At the National Theater, the ambience will be fairy tale-like, with hand-painted sets following 19th century tradition, period costumes and an overall impression of extravagance. «Our aim was to stage a historical production. The music itself conduces to a more classical reading,» said Vassilis Nikolaidis, the production’s director at a recent press conference, adding that he dealt with his «favorite opera» in a straightforward and comprehensive fashion. Fire The problem with staging this landmark Verdi opera lies with the libretto, rather than the music. The plot relates a love story: As a count and a troubadour become rivals for the love of a woman, a tragic fate befalls almost all involved. «If you read the original – which we located with some difficulty – you understand all of the work’s enigmatic phrases. Given the information we got from the original play (upon which the opera is based), we added some text, in an attempt to bridge one scene with the next,» said Nikolaidis. «The opera is based on duality: On the one hand we have a civil war, on the other we have a fire… The latter is lit at the beginning of the opera and put out at the very end. It burns the characters, metaphorically (in terms of passion) and literally (in the finale) as the cast gathers round it on stage.» «We are very fortunate in Greece because we can still present opera in the classic manner,» said tenor Dimitris Tyliakos, who sings the role of the Count di Luna, a young nobleman. «In Europe, you must have great imagination and be very informed in order to grasp what takes place during an opera performance! In the case of ‘Il Trovatore,’ all the roles are demanding. No one can afford to distance themselves and control their technique. You must be 100 percent there!» Popular work All of the production’s arias, duets, vocal ensembles, narration and dramatic monologues culminate in the «Miserere» scene. The opera was staged for the first time at the Apollo Theater in Rome, on January 18, 1853. In no time, «Il Trovatore» became hugely popular, not just in Italy, but all over the world. In Athens, the role of Leonora will be interpreted by prominent Greek soprano Dimitra Theodosiou, who previously took on the same role at Milan’s legendary La Scala, under the baton of Riccardo Muti. Theodosiou will be alternating with Julia Souglakou and the up-and-coming Sophia Mitropoulou. Also at the National Opera, Loukas Karytinos and Chrysanthos Alisafis will alternate as maestros, with set designs by Giorgos Gavalas, costumes by Claire Bracewell and dance direction by Effi Karakosta. The cast also includes Emil Ivanov, Vangelis Hadzisimos, Victoria Maifatova, Lydia Angelopoulou, Varvara Tsambali and Dimitris Kavrakos, among others.