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"...this is the best one I’ve seen since Caballe and Carreras in 1973"

says Russ McDonald in the latest issue of Opera, speaking of La Traviata at ROH. Even if the comments come two months after the performances, it's still a pleasant reading, reminding me of some beautiful moments spent at the Royal Opera on a July evening. Here's the rest of the review.
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Thanks, Hariclea! ;)
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She’s back. Having reclaimed Violetta for her repertoire— the sang the Met broadcast earlier this year—Angela Gheorghiu returned here for four late-season performances of the role that brought her to international prominence more than 15 years ago. (I saw the second of these.) Initially Georg Solti conducted, Richard Eyre directed, and performances were televised and preserved on DVD, and since then the staging has been revived often and the title part taken by, among others, Anna Netrebko, Ana Maria Martinez, Ermonela Jaho, and Rende Fleming. Given Gheorghiu’s history, of course, the obvious question is: does she still have what it takes? You bet.
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Musically there were no serious flaws in her portrayal. Although she may have lost some youthful insouciance, her voice still encompasses the notorious demands of the part. Gleaming, even, and darkly beautiful, the sound flowed into the house in the big moments—the ‘Amami Alfredo’ was splendid—and prompted us to lean forward in the smaller ones—the end of ‘Addio del passato’ equally fine. Dramatically she brings good instincts to the stage, and she looks gorgeous in the dresses. But some of her movements suggest an amateurishness incompatible with the finish of the vocal performance. She swings her head and body vigorously one way or the other at the beginning of big, rapid passages (repeatedly noticeable in ‘Sempre libera’), as if lunging into the phrase, and she apparently subscribes to the Renée Fleming school of excessive hand gestures. These quibbles aside, she is still the finest Violetta around.
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James Valenti, in his debut performances as Alfredo, was promising if unpolished. A string bean of a man, he looked gangly and uncomfortable at the Act I party, appropriately enough, but he sounded fine in the Brindisi and the first duet. He probably should have avoided the high note that finished O mio rimorso’: it wasn’t bad, just a little squeezed and brief. Although his instrument lacks the fullness of a Calleja or the sovereign top of a Florez, he nevertheless delivered most of the part musically and ardently, and presumably he wilt grow with experience. I thought Zeljko Lucic was terrific as Germont Père. and if he wasn’t as poetic as Thomas Hampson, the stony power of his huge baritone was adequate compensation, and well-suited to the persona.
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Yves Abel gave an unexceptionable account of the score, although his Violetta appeared to want him to follow her. Having seen the production several times now, I still find directorial delights: that the band leaves Violetta’s party as soon as they can, hustling their instruments down the stairs before the guests exit; that the fabric swatches and unhung pictures in Act 2 point the impermanence of Violetta’s bliss; that the invitation to Flora’s party is delivered by a small child, daughter of the rustic who ushers her in and stands encouragingly behind her; that after Violetta collapses in the gambling scene, tended by Flora and Doctor Grenville, the physician kneels over her not knowing what to do with his hands, as if to show that the illness is emotional rather than physical. Traviata is frequently performed but not always well. All round, I’d say this is the best one I’ve seen since Caballe and Carreras in 1973.
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1 comment:

  1. Not only does she still have what it takes, but even much more: all the years that have passed by since 'that' Traviata brought her interpretation a more subtle approach both musically and dramatically. About her body movements in Sempre Libera, I think that she concentrates so much on how to produce and deliver the coloratura passages that she simply cannot bring herself to control her gestures enough. It's just like sometimes she would go up on her toes just as she's hitting a very high note as if to help her produce the sound.

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