La Traviata a tthe Royal Opera House

ANGEL BLUE TRIUMPHS IN LA TRAVIATA

LA TRAVIATA
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Heartfelt thanks to the ROH for another straight, no-frippery production of one of the repertoire greats, this time Verdi's La Traviata in director Richard Eyre's meticulously detailed, loving staging.
Bob Crowley's sets evoke Parisian opulence (Violetta's party-room actually reminding me of Birmingham Art Gallery's great round foyer!) and the heroine's eventual penury, though we must have missed the luxury referred to by Giorgio Germont when he gatecrashes the love-nest shared by his son and Violetta.
Vocal values are very high, and so is the acting. led, above all, by Angel Blue as a most moving Violetta. We first see her during the Prelude (an opening so hushed as to be a miscalculation by Verdi, but here the audience was impeccably silent – though breaking into applause at the end of arias, and even in the middle of them, and crashing into the finale's closing chords), lying ill on a couch before her party begins.
Violetta needs three different voices, one for every act, and Blue certainly has them. She actually began by sounding like Maria Callas (check out the 1958 Lisbon recording), then brittled for "Sempre Libera". Her anguish in Act Two, when her lover Alfredo's pompous father begs her to leave the relationship, was painfully communicative (what a heart-piercing "Amami, Alfredo") and she sang with a controlled weakness during the death-bed scene which is Act Three, acting and indeed coughing so convincingly without ever compromising her vocal delivery. The lengthy ovation she received at the end was more than well-deserved.
As he lover Alfredo Dmytro Popov seemed disappointingly stiff, and forgive me for punning his "Croce e delizia" actually tended towards the excruciating. Vladimir Stoyanov made Giorgio Germont as sympathetic as he could ever possibly be (the walking-stick signalling his age and infirmity helped), and we even had a real characterisation of Violetta's sugar-daddy Douphol from Yuriy Yurchuk.
The ROH Orchestra sounded a little thin and wan under conductor Renato Balsadonna, but William Spaulding's Chorus were spirited and lively, as were Jane Gibson's equally spirited dancers , even in silhouette.
Christopher Morley

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