“From start to finish her Leonora was a potent and confident woman, singing passionately in her opening aria to mirror the intense love she felt for Manrico. Verdi’s vocal line ascends throughout “Tacea la notte” to mirror Leonora’s sense of hope and aspiration, and Rowley was right on point with this sense of elation. She retained a tempo that helped build the lines slowly, floating ever higher toward the climaxes of each phrase effortlessly. She didn’t sing at full volume here, but the lightness in the voice gave a sense of emotional freedom. It was matched by the ensuing cabaletta, where Rowley’s vocal mastery was even clearer, the newfound brightness adding to this build of anticipation at seeing her lover.
This was heavily contrasted with the big scene where Leonora’s hope is dashed and all she can think of is the death of her beloved. “D’amor sull’ali rosee” contrasts heavily with “Tacea” in the sense that descending vocal lines dominate the aria. And here Rowley’s voice was edgier and darker, expressing the deep sense of powerlessness that Leonora felt in this moment.
The darkness grew in the ensuing “Miserere,” the soprano’s voice accenting every rhythm sharply and growing more and more fierce as the passage developed and Manrico’s singing joined in with her. Rowley jumped up on the gate, expressing Leonora’s sense of desperation and even interpolated a visceral high C toward the end as almost one last cry of pain.
The final cabaletta was the icing on the cake as far as how Rowley explored Leonora’s character arc. We see her go from a hopeful lover to a hopeless one and finally see her rediscover that strength that is slowly picked apart from scene to scene in the opera. In the final cabaletta, when she determines that she will die for love, she returns to her vow from “Di tale amor che dirsi” where she declares “If I can’t live for him, then I will die for him.” And as was the case in that opening aria, where the declaration was made with resolute joy, Rowley imbued her Leonora with that same sense of purpose. Her voice brightened and filled the Met in a way that she only matched in the concertato, “E deggio e posso crederlo?,” when she saw her lover “rise” from the dead before her.
Her scene with Quinn Kelsey that followed was a wondrous battle of wills. The two possess dynamite instruments from a volume standpoint and it was quite thrilling to see them throw around all that vocal weight at one another in this climax. But then to see Rowley’s voice wither away as she lay dying was just as glorious, showing the listener the range her instrument truly possesses.”
– David Salazar, OperaWire (January 28, 2018)
“Surrounded by three opera powerhouses, a young American soprano tonight made another hefty, iconic role debut at the Metropolitan Opera. Her second such in ten days. And fearlessly. The soprano is Jennifer Rowley, and following last season’s success in Cyrano de Bergerac, she and Met Opera general manager Peter Gelb audaciously agreed to Tosca and Leonora in 2018. Well, success is Gelb’s and Rowley’s as the Met remounts Sir David McVicar’s drab Il Trovatore with a vocally impressive wonder-cast that acts with ruthless efficiency … rounding out this quartet is Rowley, who this season sings two iconic roles at the Met, including tonight’s Leonora. She made her Met Tosca debut just over a week ago, appearing once during a run lead by Sonya Yoncheva and Anna Netrebko. These are big names and these are big roles. Daunting roles. Roles owned by the ghosts of opera singers past …
It’s inspiring to me that any opera singer will walk on stage, competing against eighty years of recorded history. Rowley did just that tonight and she triumphed … She is a smart, concise actor. Il Trovatore is utter melodrama, and Rowley’s restraint, like that of her colleagues, turns melodrama nicely into drama. Vocally, Rowley is a gift. Leonora is a long haul … Rowley’s soprano is delicious; brilliant spinto coated in caramel. A sound simultaneously thrilling and relaxing. And ultimately comforting. This comforting excitement is supported by impressive technical abilities, abilities on impressive display tonight. At one time, opera houses developed talent. Think Beverly Sills and New York City Opera. The jet age squashed that opera house mission a tad. But interestingly, Gelb is looking both to the past and to the future and is aggressively (and happily) promoting new opera talent … And now, there is this exciting cast in this exciting Il Trovatore, with an exciting new Gelb soprano, at the Met. I suggest you take it in.”
– Mark McLaren, ZealNYC (January 22, 2018)
“The demanding role of Leonora, the unhappy love interest of both brothers, was interpreted by Jennifer Rowley. She possesses a medium-weight soprano voice with a clear and consistent tone … she moved with ease from the delicate “D’amor sull’ali rosee” to the chest voice in the following Miserere.”
– Edward Sava-Segal, Bachtrack (January 25, 2018)
“Caruso is said to have quipped that all you need for a successful Trovatore production is the four greatest singers in the world. Call this production successful! Although I recently raved about Miss Rowley’s Tosca, I found on Monday night her Leonora was even better vocally than her beautiful Tosca. Everything Leonora needs–warm sound throughout, a broad palate of vocal colors and the ability to use them intelligently, great musical instincts, and chutzpah–Miss Rowley has in abundance.”
– Taminophile (January 23, 2018)
“… she delivered on this thrilling character, turning the triple play of “D’Amor Sull’Ali Rosee”, the Miserere scene, and the fast “Tu Vedrai Che Amore In Terra” with some thrilling ornamentation. She went wonderfully, wackily over the top in her death, delivering her last lines in a demented crawl toward the prompter’s box that proved to be almost as entertaining as her singing.”
– Paul J. Pelkonen, Berkshire Fine Arts (January 24, 2018)
“The soprano Jennifer Rowley took over the full “Trovatore” run from an ill colleague less than two weeks ago. As the noblewoman Leonora, battled over by Manrico and the count, she is finely controlled, her tone clear and clean.”
– Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times (January 23, 2018)
“…she blossomed particularly in Act 4, with a delicately phrased ‘D’amor sull’ali rose’ and a fervent, richly sung account of the ensuing cabaletta…”
George Loomis, Opera Now (April 2018 issue)
“[Jennifer Rowley] has the darkness and complexity of a real Verdi instrument …”
– Fred Cohn, Opera News (April 2018 issue)