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Contact: irina.stanescu@ymail.com
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Della traviata, sorridi al desio! - Royal Opera, July 11th, with photos

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It seems that airports (or waiting in the airport for the flight) bring inspiration. When I found out about this Traviata at Royal Opera, about 1 year and 3 months ago, the trip to NY and La Traviata at the Met weren’t even an idea. So this was like a goal. To see live the production I’ve been watching on DVD for about 10 years. So Royal Opera made me plan my activities one year in advance. Back then I didn’t know if I was able to travel. After all it’s one long year ahead. Time passed, everything went fine so I went to London.
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I arrived one day before. I wanted to see another production, Manon starring Anna Netrebko and Vittorio Grigolo (this was another wowww. But I’ll talk about it in another post). Saturday passed and Sunday came. July 11th. I was nervous all day long. Nervous in a good way. Maybe nervous is not the right word. Anxious, euphoric, happy… these are better.
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What happened during those 3 hours and 15 minutes was like a fairy tale. With a princess and a prince, with love, passion and sorrow. The sad story of Violetta Valery impressed me to tears. After the overture the red curtain goes up and you can see Violetta sitting in the dark ball room. Only one spotlight placed above her marks her position. This is how the story starts.
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When watching the DVD I thought that the sets are small, that the stage is crowded. In reality it’s not like this. At least not from where I was sitting. The ball room is designed to be at an upper floor as some stairs are visible on the left and right, coming from downstairs. In fact the ballroom is a disc, reclining towards the audience to offer some perspective. Great costumes! Especially the white dress which combined with the hairdo made Angela look gorgeous. This is one of the advantages of sitting close to the stage. The sound isn’t the best, but the view is spectacular. You can notice every small detail such as gestures, the direction of the sight, the rendition of love, passion, fear, anger, things that you can’t see from the amphitheatre. I could also see how the small white flower (the one Violetta gives to Alfredo) attached to the cleavage of the dress came off and dropped on the floor. Angela saw it, finished what she was singing and attempted to pick it up. Only that she moved the large dress which created an air flow. The small flower flew towards the orchestra pit. A few seconds later she says “prendete questo fiore” but turns away from the audience while rising the hand. But Mr Valenti didn’t get her movement. Just stood where he was and kept on singing without even getting closer to her. But this was just a detail. At the end of act one the white, fabric curtain rised and Angela received the well deserved round of applause.
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The sets in the second act brought a real surprise. Everything happens very, very close to the edge of the stage, so also close to us. From the point of view of the music and intensity of feelings, this is my favorite act. Especially when pere Germont has the voice I’d like him to have. And Zelico Lucic was the best pere Germont I’ve seen so far. What a voice! Dark but gentle, full of colors, not to loud, it matched Angela’s voice perfectly. The acting was great too. At first he wants to dominate but soon understands the situation. Towards the end of the first part of act II there is an area that often disappears but it’s so beautiful and I was glad that it was kept in this production: “Dunque invano trovato t’avro”. Pere Germont is a strong presence also in the end of the second act. The concertato was beautiful. The voices, the chorus in the background, the orchestra.. perfect. Violetta falls down on her knees when Alfredo throws the tokens on her and remains like this throughout the concertato. In the end pere Germont help her rise and the curtain falls. Only to rise a few second later. Nobody moved from the initial position.
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The sets in the third act preserve the idea of a house in decay. Two beds, a small stove, a few chairs. “Teneste la promessa”, “Addio, del pasato…” and she really makes you feel that her end is very close. Not too much coughing as the critics said, just enough to make everything believable. Towards the end the light in the room is brighter and brighter and under these circumstances Violetta’s staring look and running in the end makes sense. And she died again in the arms of a desperate Alfredo.
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The voices? How could I comment? Not too often my eyes are flooded with tears. It must be something very special. Such as Violetta-pere Germont scenes, Violetta’s arias (amazing pianissimo, so many colors in the voice, so much passion in every word). I took with me every note, every feeling everybody on stage gave to us. The more I listen, the more I realize how difficult it is what they do on stage. And how into the character they must be in order to make it real. My respect and appreciation grows every day.
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So, this was Traviata at ROH. This is what my eyes saw and my ears heard. As always, thank you, Angela!
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And some photos. My hands were shaking badly, but the camera knows its job :). Enjoy!
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The end of Act 1


The end of act 2
Curtain call
James Valenti



Yves Abel
Zelico Lucic, Angela Gheorghiu, Yves Abel, James Valenti




Zelico Lucic

At the backstage door




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9 comments:

  1. Hello Irina! Thank you so much for this wonderful post about a wonderful lady! I myself am going on Wednesday and understand the weird nervous/excited feeling you talked about! Your pictures are beautiful, and have made me even more excited about what I am going to see! I have never waited backstage after a performance before, but on Wednesday I think I will, could you possibly give me some guidance as to where to go/ how long you have to wait/ are there lots of people there etc? Thank you so much for this wonderful blog about my FAVOURITE soprano ever! xxxx

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  2. Splendid photos! Thank you a lot!
    Angela looks so exquisite in silver grey!

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  3. @La Rondine - The backstage door is on Floral Street. Just go around the building and you'll find it. It's not hidden. Usually there are many people there, but don't worry, you don't have to wait too much. Angela and James came after 20-25 minutes or so. They'll stay inside, which is better, because there's no lighting outside.
    Enjoy the performance and if you put down some impressions, please let me know.

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  4. Many thanks Irina for this excellent report and the lovely photos.

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  5. just came home from work...to find relaxation by reading your post. Thanks for your report, your writing style, your enthousiasm. It´s always a pleasure!

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  6. @Cristina - right. Insight evening - In conversation with..
    @Edda - thaaaaanks :)

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  7. bravo irina et merci pour ces photos et description. vos photos sont superbes ! angela est très belle...
    merci de nous faire partager vos émotions et votre sentiment de la soirée...rêve inaccessible pour moi, peut-être un jour ?
    bien amicalement
    mireille

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  8. Irina, it was great to read your thoughts - I went on the 8th, and do have some critical remarks on that specific performance. First of all, I didn't like Abel's conducting too much - it wasn't very subtle, and although Angela is often scorned for doing it, most awkward changes in tempi came from the orchestra, causing trouble for all the singers who don't have the same reputation as Angela.
    Secondly, Angela undeniably had some problems in the first act. Some phrases sounded hesitant and nervous, and she tried to adjust to Abel's gear changes a number of times, which caused her to swallow phrases or to rush through them. After the first interval, she seemed much more relaxed about her performance, and just let Abel come to her, which worked much better. From then on, she was in top form, and it is amazing how the voice still has the qualities it had when the dvd was filmed. It is also interesting to see how her interpretation has changed. Vocally, she made some interesting choices, and Violetta was acted differently as well: she started as a diva, much colder and less girlish than on the dvd, which contrasted interestingly with her more private feelings and desires that she struggles with in sempre libera. So, Angela provided everything to have me teary-eyed near the end.
    There is one 'but', however - and that's James Valenti. I kept feeling that he was very nervous (new house, new public, new production). Especially in the second act, his upper registers were in severe trouble and he shifted to what most resembled declaiming his words. Furthermore, his Alfredo lacked passion. I think Alfredo is a very boyish and tempestuous guy - unlike Violetta, he follows his initial instincts. I just did not see or hear that in Valenti's portrayal.
    Hopefully, most of these issues were fixed for the second performance (they usually are - the first night is never an entirely representative perfomance because of bottled-up nerves).
    I hope you enjoyed Manon (I definitely did!), and will you go to Boccanegra as well (or in Spain?)
    - Laura86

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  9. @Laura - great review! Thanks a lot. I'm so happy that so many people shared their opinion. Yes, Manon was great as I didn't expect Grigolo to sound soooo well. Boccanegra, yes, but in Madrid.

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