Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

La Bohème, Manitoba

Manitoba Opera’s first production in nine years of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème still stirs the heart and inspires tears with its tragic tale of bohemian artists living — and loving — in 1840s Paris.

Arizona Opera Presents Don Pasquale in Tucson

On April 12, 2014, Arizona Opera opened its series of performances of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Tucson. Chuck Hudson’s production of this opera combined Commedia dell’arte with Hollywood movie history.

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Anna Netrebko as Violetta [Photo by Terrence McCarthy courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
24 Jun 2009

La Traviata in San Francisco

Much ink has been spilled over the failed Marta Domingo production of La Traviata that San Francisco Opera inexplicably imported for its blatantly audience baiting summer season (Traviata, Tosca, Porgy and Bess).

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata

Violetta Valéry: Anna Netrebko / Elizabeth Futral (6/29, 7/2, 7/5) / Ailyn Pérez (7/1); Alfredo Germont: Charles Castronovo / David Lomelí (6/29, 7/2); Giorgio Germont: Dwayne Croft / Stephen Powell (6/29, 7/2); Flora: Leann Sandel-Pantaleo; Gastone: Andrew Bidlack; Baron Douphol: Dale Travis; Marquis D’Obigny: Austin Kness; Grenvil: Kenneth Kellogg; Annina: Renée Tatum; Giuseppe: Dale Tracy; Messenger: Bojan Knezevic; Flora’s Servant: William Pickersgill; Matador: Jekyns Pelaez. San Francisco Opera. Conductor: Donald Runnicles / Edwin Outwater* (7/5). Director and Designer: Marta Domingo.

Above: Anna Netrebko as Violetta [Photo by Terrence McCarthy courtesy of San Francisco Opera]

 

Even the critical intention of finding the positive and ignoring the well publicized negatives of the production endured only through the first act (overheard intermission comments “she seems very organized,” “I’ve seen worse”).

The second act, a Verdi masterpiece, was rendered nonsensical, the storytelling eviscerated — Violetta flippant, Germont deadly cold, Alfredo happen chance. Flora’s party was the occasion of an extended ballet of the sort that makes audiences laugh. Violetta’s death was enacted in the heavens, possibly a reference, maladroit, to the Eurydice myth.

TMPicture130.gifCharles Castronovo as Alfredo [Photo by Terrence McCarthy courtesy of San Francisco Opera]

If there was ever any theatrical integrity to this production it had evaporated in this strange encounter of Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, a superb singer and a very particular artist, with the wife of Placido Domingo. Clearly there was no connection between the emotional immediacy projected by Mme. Netrebko, her dramatic delivery of text that was high Monteverdi in its directness and intensity, and the stylized, content-less staging perpetrated by Mme. Domingo.

Mme. Netrebko was in fine form for the June nineteenth performance, the third of her five performances (Elizabeth Futral takes a further three performances, Ailyn Perez one more). Her voice filled the theater with an unusual volume and richness, pitch precision sometimes subjugated to declamation in infinite tonal and rhythmic colorations. It may be noted that she did not take the ‘Sempre libera’ high E-flat, nor did she open the traditional cuts in ‘Ah, fors’é lui’ or her ‘Addio del passato’.

Mme. Netrebko nearly met her match in American tenor Charles Castronovo who brought urgency, voluptuously sculpted text delivery, beauty of tone and a handsome stage presence to this Verdi tenor, though like all of them prototypically unlikeable.

CW_MG_2864.gifDwayne Croft (Giorgio Germont) and Anna Netrebko (Violetta Valéry) [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]

Dwayne Croft, père Germont, possesses a fine instrument that he uses with great care, and with commendable musicality. Though naturally commanding his stage presence and musicianship paled in his confrontations with Violetta and his son when it needed the immediacy and authority to confuse their youthful impulses.

Reveling in this charged musicality erupting from the stage conductor Donald Runicles melted into a rapport with the stage that is all too rare in opera, and when it occurs sublime music is sometimes heard. Mo. Runnicles’ mannered tempi and phrasing were elaborated by those mannerisms of his not particularly Italianate soprano and tenor, and tempered by the stylistic cleanliness and musical purity of his baritone. Finally the weeping minor seconds of Violetta’s death rang incisively, with a final agogic [a slight withholding of the beat] choke from the throbbing violins — representative of the Runnicles mannerism catalogue.

CW_MG_3288.gifAnna Netrebko (Violetta Valéry) and Dale Travis (Baron Douphol) [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]

It could have been thrilling indeed, this death, had the stage moved in concert with the Verdi poetic. Mme. Domingo imposed the forms of the roaring twenties, a metaphor that does not seem to match the atmospheres of this mid-nineteenth century morality play, perhaps because art nouveau lines are overwhelmingly sensual, and flashing, reflective surfaces too sexually forceful. Finally La Traviata is a simple story of family life that easily disappears in fanciful images (three ballerinas floated onto the stage to drape Violetta in a bridal gown during the death scene, as one of many examples).

As this review is for Opera Today and not the Harvard Business Review the focus is on the art of opera, not the art of business. Perhaps an evaluation of the business of opera as reflected in this Traviata and last week’s Tosca would validate some of the artistic choices, and one hopes, result in more positive terms. Otherwise there can be no point to San Francisco Opera’s summer season.

Michael Milenski

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):