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 Performances

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

Susannah in San Francisco

Come to think of it the 1950‘s were operatically rich years in America compared to other decades in the recent past. Just now the San Francisco Opera laid bare an example, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Xerxes, ENO

Nicholas Hytner’s production of Handel’s Xerxes (Serse) at English National Opera (ENO) is nearly 30 years old, and is the oldest production in ENO’s stable.

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Ermonela Jaho as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo [Photo © ROH 2011 / Catherine Ashmore]
05 Jan 2012

La Traviata: The 454th Performance at the Royal Opera House

This performance of La Traviata was the 454th at the Royal Opera House, and the first performance in the 3rd revival this season of Richard Eyre’s production.

Giuseppe Verdi : La Traviata

Violetta : Ermonela Jaho, Alfredo Germont : Stephen Costello,Giorgio Germont : Paolo Gavanelli, Flora : Justina Gingyte, The Marquis : Jeremy White, Gastone : Ji Hyun Kim, The Doctor: Robert Lloyd, Annina : Hanna Hipp. Conductor : Maurizio Bemini, Director : Richard Eyre, Revival Director : Paul Higgins, Designs : Bob Crowley. Royal Opera House, London, 2nd January, 2012.

Above: Ermonela Jaho as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo

Photos © ROH 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

 

Each of this season’s revivals has been in the hands of a different revival director. This time, Paul Higgins oversaw Ermonela Jaho returning as Violetta and Stephen Costello making his Covent Garden role debut as Alfredo.

Since her last appearance here as Violetta, Jaho has made quite a stir with her performance as Suor Angelica in the new production of Puccini’s Il Trittico. Costello has previously appeared at the Royal Opera House in a concert performance of Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix and as Rinuccio in Il Trittico, so that Alfredo represents the singers biggest stage role yet at Covent Garden.

Bob Crowley’s designs still look very well and the production remains very handsome. It was new in 1994 and this run seems to be its 15th revival, so that one of the items of interest would be how the production was holding up. One always expects the party scene in Act 1 to be something of a mess and Crowley’s design seems to intentionally crowd the partygoers, but I did wonder whether the chaos could be more organised, whether there had been quite enough rehearsal time.

LA-TRAVIATA-2513ashm_337-GR.gifJustina Gringyte as Flora

Jaho is a slim, almost diminutive figure who has no problem at all looking fragile, which is always a help in this role. She was very studied dramatically, using a range of expressive but carefully choreographed movements. Not at all stiff or static, but rather as if Violetta had constructed a persona for herself; an interestingly valid point of view, though this may simply be Jaho’s natural style.

Technically Jaho is a lyric soprano with a tight vibrato and an attractively veiled quality to the voice. In Act 1 her coloratura was creditable rather than pin-sharp, and she had an occasional tendency to attack notes from below. But she also had the magical ability to thin her voice right down.

“Sempre libera” had a slightly desperate quality to it and you could almost feel Jaho saying thank goodness that was over at the end of the act. But then few sopranos manage all 3 acts of La Traviata with equal facility, that’s one of the role’s challenges.

Costello was nicely correct and callow as Alfredo, especially on his first entry into the party. Slim and good looking, his voice was a surprise being thicker and darker than expected, with a nicely focused Italianate tone. He brought a lovely lyric feel to the Brindisi. With both him and Jaho you felt that there was a good likelihood that their voices will move on to more dramatic roles.

LA-TRAVIATA-2513ashm_274-JA.gifErmonela Jaho as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo

Interaction between them was rather nervous and this seemed to reflect in their voices. You did not really believe that there was passion there. The intensity in Costello’s voice didn’t quite match his body language. Jaho seemed to find form in Act 2, expressing Violetta’s suffering with great expressiveness.

Jaho thinned her voice magically for “Dite alla giovine” and the duet with Gavanelli crackled with emotion in a way that hadn’t happened in Act 1. In Act 3, “Addio del passato” was beautifully sung and profoundly moving, but here and elsewhere in this act, Jaho did rather too much operatic staggering about; I happen to think that less is more here. Her death was dramatic and beautiful, but perhaps a little too ‘stagey’. Jaho’s performance was profoundly moving, but ultimately I found her to be a little too studied.

Costello was similarly impressive. I often feel that Alfredo is not the brightest button in the box and whether by accident or design Costello conveyed something of this. In the scene at Flora’s the duet between Jaho and Costello was thrilling, his anger blazed forth in a way that his passion did not. Unfortunately Costello reverted to looking stiff, though he sang with conviction and passion. He did spend a lot of times on his knees, which he seemed to find uncomfortable. Musically Costello turned in a passionate and stylish performance, but this was not always reflected in his body language. It seemed he would have benefited from greater rehearsal time with a strong director.

LA-TRAVIATA-2513ashm_436-GA.gifPaolo Gavanelli as Girogio Germont

It helped that Paolo Gavanelli’s Giorgio Germont was pure class. Every inch an aristocrat, severely controlled, not a blusterer, Gavanelli sang beautifully with profoundly expressive line. He conveyed the character’s breeding and inhibition, and it was lovely to hear it sung by a native Italian.

It was nice to see David Stout as the Baron and he turned in a stylish performance. The other smaller roles were well cast, with Justina Gingyte as Flora, Jeremy White as the Marquis and Ji Hyun Kim as Gastone. Robert Lloyd made a sympathetic Doctor and Hanna Hipp a strong Annina.

Maurizio Benini provided a safe pair of hands in the pit, with support for the singers and well placed flexible tempi. This wasn’t perhaps a vintage revival but it was certainly involving, with some strongly characterised performances.

Robert Hugill

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):