Lyric Opera of Chicago

“This revival…bears revisiting. That’s due primarily to the tonally brilliant singing of soprano Tamara Wilson…and the dramatic insights of mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton. Mezzo-soprano Barton brought both musical and dramatic depth to her reading of Azucena, the gypsy who lusts for vengeance and fatefully finds it by opera’s end. Most striking here was Barton’s low register, a throaty, guttural timbre reflecting the darkness of her deeds. In Barton’s nuanced performance, Azucena emerged a cursed but somewhat sympathetic villain. You had to feel for her in “Stride la vampa,” as she recounted the fiery tragedy she witnessed, and in her “Ai nostri monti” duet with Manrico, in which her dream of finding peace emerges as poignant self-delusion…In the end, though, this “Trovatore” hinged on Wilson’s and Barton’s imposing vocals, which will be remembered long after the rest is forgotten.”
–Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

“As for the cast, pride of place must go to the sensational mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton in the role of Azucena. In her opening number "Stride la vampa," Barton was remarkable in how she captured her character's emotional volatility. From stridency, to trauma, to guilt, to fury, Barton's performance was a masterclass in affective singing-acting. You could have closed your eyes and known exactly what this character was going through.”

–Michael Pecak, Schmopera

“Mezzo Jamie Barton triumphantly silenced naysayers who thought it hasty to take on Azucena before she turned forty – although it is instructive to recall that Fiorenza Cossotto recorded the role at an even younger age. Barton was searing as the tortured Gypsy, fielding booming chest tones to burn in ‘Condotta ell’erea’ and melting legato in ‘Ai nostri monti.’”
–Mark Thomas Ketterson, Opera News

“Barton delivers powerful, show-stopping singing as Azucena, capturing the variously crazed, forlorn facets of this conflicted character…”
–Kyle MacMillan, Chicago Sun-Times

“American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is a stunning Azucena, the gypsy who lives for revenge. She has a coffee-rich darkness to her voice, and her storytelling ability is tremendous. Azucena in the wrong hands can appear to be a silly or demented old woman, but Barton imbues the character with ominous power.”
–M.L. Rantala, Hyde Park Herald

“The role of Azucena, Manrico's retribution-obsessed mother, is one that invites some scenery chewing, and mezzo Jamie Barton gives it her all without ever tipping over into parody. Her superbly sung performance here does not disappoint.”
–Chuck Lavazzi, Stage Left

“Jamie Barton is one of the world’s great mezzo-sopranos and her Azucena was masterful. Barton is a familiar face at the Lyric and her powerful voice complemented perhaps the best dramatic skills among the principals. Her Azucena was less fanatical and more a woman who has been severely damaged yet still has a bond with Manrico. Her fiery showpiece “Stride la vampa” was one of the highlights of the matinee.“
–Santosh Venkataraman, Opera WIre

“As one would expect at the Lyric, the vocal talent of the principles drove this piece once again over the top of the ramparts, as it were… Russell Thomas (Manrico) and Jamie Barton (Azucena) are at their best in this love triangle/fraternal dual/filial vengeance call.”
–Joseph Anthony Rulli, Picture this Post

“Brilliant voices tell the story led by soprano Tamara Wilson…and mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, who is pitch perfect as the gypsy Azucena seeking vengeance for her mother's death – both women providing inspiring vocal thrills throughout.”

–Carole Kuhrt Brewer, Chicago Now

“Barton’s performances as Azucena holds back nothing. The height of her voice is matched by the anguish on her face and in her body. Although Azucena’s tragic error with the babies is absurd to describe, it’s clear in the performance that she was in the midst of a panic attack at the time and is still traumatized. We see her unravel further by the end. But that doesn’t stop her from joining in with Manrico for one of Verdi’s signature duet declarations of vengeance, which is suitably rousing.”
–Jacob Davis, Around The Town Chicago

“Speaking of sublime, how can we start to describe the perfect storm of vocalism which was created by an ensemble of some of the greatest Verdi voices of our age? Every singer was ideally cast in these difficult roles. Azucena…is often played with hair-raising intensity, bordering on the grotesque. Jamie Barton was a more sympathetic character and sang the role more beautifully, not in small part due to the pathos inherent in her warm full mezzo soprano. Still chilling, yes, but believable.”
–William and Margaret Swain, Buzz Center Stage

“At the center of the Trovatore story is Azucena, sung here by Jamie Barton, an impressive 37-year-old with a voice of steadfast strength and only a few Azucenas under her belt (Cincinnati and Munich) although there are doubtless many more in the offing. Azucena’s early scene at the gypsy camp is a tour de force; Manrico listens as she relives her horror at the crowd’s delight in her mother’s immolation, then dissolves into viscerally thrilling madness as she forgets herself, revealing the truth Manrico does not know, which forces her to quickly recover and dissemble. There is realism in Barton’s insightful reading of this self-made human horror. She has survived her losses and grotesquely doubled down. Wait for that cry of sick victory, which finally comes at the end of yet another war that no one wins.”

–Nancy Malitz, Chicago on the Aisle

“As far as the leads go, it’s the women that are the stars of this show. Barton has a nice turn as Azucena, transitioning between a rounded middle voice to an anguished, wailing low register and popping in razor sharp high notes when needed.”
–Jane Recker, Chicagoland Musical Theatre

“Lyric provided the finest, best matched group of lead singers that I can imagine singing today. Jamie Barton certainly laid claim to being the Azucena of her generation.  The voice has bloomed and become more powerful, and last night she deployed a lower register that I hadn’t heard from her before. She sang and acted with beauty and skill, and the contrast between her lust for vengeance for her mother’s death and her maternal protectiveness toward Manrico has never been clearer. Her “Stride la vampa” in Act Two was a model of dramatic vocalism, yet she was able to sing softly and ravishingly in Act Four’s “Ai nostri monti” when the imprisoned Azucena longs for her previous life in the mountains. And her rendition of the opera’s final line “Sei vendicata, o Madre!” was chilling and raise goose bumps on this reviewer.”

–Henson Keys, Parterre Box

“Jamie Barton as Azucena achieved the finest and most convincing blend of great Verdi singing and compelling acting. She created a well-rounded portrait of the bitter old gypsy with disturbing secrets—a sympathetic mother yet a woman still bent on vengeance and hard as nails. For once the final act was not an absurd anticlimax and the mezzo-soprano was riveting here – Barton’s high notes soared like a bel canto soprano and her growling chest voice had a disturbing, almost feral quality. She charted the imprisoned Azucena’s psychological disintegration with an almost clinical degree of vocal and dramatic acuity. All four principals were at their best in the final scene, delivering unbridled, truly great Verdi singing that defines opera at its most thrilling and visceral.”
–Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review

Beth Stewart