Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Marina Rebeka as Violetta, Act 1. [Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography]
22 Jan 2014

La traviata, Chicago

In a staging shared with Houston Grand Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, Lyric Opera of Chicago presented recently a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata.

La traviata, Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Marina Rebeka as Violetta, Act 1. [Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography]

 

The title role was sung by Marina Rebeka in her company debut; Joseph Calleja repeated his success as Alfredo Germont; the father of Alfredo, Giorgio Germont, was performed by baritone Quinn Kelsey. The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus were conducted by Massimo Zanetti.

The first and final acts of Verdi’s opera were united in the visual depiction of Violetta Valery’s domain, while the atmosphere attendant on both depictions showed a considerable difference. During the overture to the opera the audience was able to witness, through a film-like curtain suspended before the stage, the protagonist Violetta helped by her maid as she stepped into a ball-gown and train. As the strings played their achingly wistful melody during the overture Violetta donned both feathers and wings to prepare herself further for the festive party in her home. This element of belle époque artifice continued throughout the production lending a credible tone to the celebratory scenes in the later acts.

From her first lines of invitation, “Flora, amici …” and “Miei cari, sedete …” [“Flora, my friends …” and “My dear friends, please be seated”], Ms. Rebeka had full command of Violetta’s role. She sings with a comfortable approach to the character’s shifting vocal lines, uses decoration judiciously, and remains involved in the stage action as hostess at her salon. At Alfredo Germont’s introduction Mr. Calleja assumes a tentative yet searching approach, so that the audience is able to sense his vivid interest not only in the setting but also in its hostess. Calleja’s admirable line and embellishments in the “Brindisi” [“Libiamo” (“Drink”)] are models of bel canto Verdian singing. Individual notes are projected clearly, just as the intensity and color of Calleja’s decorations emphasize an involvement progressing beyond infatuation. When he responds to Violetta’s questions concerning this passionate interest, Calleja introduces his self-defense with a suspenseful diminuendo before describing his unexpected love already for the duration of a year. With a seamless flow of legato expression Calleja outlines his character’s emotional struggle as summarized finally with a tear-laden effect on “Croce e delizia” [“Cross and ecstasy”]. Rebeka’s response is equally moving while she pronounces “un cosi eroico amore” [“such an heroic love”] with a rising line of decoration. During their rapid exchange of plans to meet again when the flower has withered, both principals sang “domani” [“tomorrow”] in piano intimacy. As a means to depicting their growing, shared love, this hushed glance into the characters’ feeling enhanced for the audience the resolve expressed in the duet as concluded.

During an introspective solo, when left alone to ponder the changes affecting her current state, Violetta doubts at first the possibility of authentic love. In the first part of her aria, “Ah, fors’è lui” [“Ah, perhaps he is the one”], Rebeka uses her skills to sing and modulate from soft to loud as though involved in an emphatic conversation with her heart. The incomprehensible, or “misterioso,” is sung by Rebeka softly and in awe, whereas her voice blooms in volume under the weight of the “croce.” During the ensuing “Sempre libera” [“Forever free”] the rapid runs were executed cleanly and forte notes were taken as pure, lyrical cries of emotion. Rebeka succeeds at integrating this showpiece aria smoothly into the drama while at the same time leaving a strong impression of her bel canto approach. Toward the close of the act Calleja’s repeated offstage appeals of “Croce” extended the emotional web for both protagonists even further.

At the start of Act Two Alfredo, while alone, muses on his happiness in the soliloquy “Lunge da lei per me” [“When she is far away”]. Calleja’s breath control and embellishments on “il passato” and “Io vivo quasi in ciel” [“the past” and “I seem to live in heaven”] underline his dream-like state before the rude awakening of Violetta’s financial sacrifice, about which he learns unexpectedly from Annina. In his aria of response, “Oh mio rimorso! Oh, infamia!” [“Oh remorse! Oh infamy!”], Alfredo is indeed jolted into recognizing his position. Calleja performs this aria with true emotional vigor and takes the repeat with the effect of emphasizing his resolve. Act Two of La traviata belongs, of course, just as much to Giorgio Germont, the father of Alfredo. Mr. Kelsey demonstrates a solid command of this role, his exciting baritone drawing on resonant shades of nuance especially during his introductory scene with Violetta. When making an appeal to his son’s lover Kelsey includes individual decoration to enhance the spirit of his request. His sense of rubato was effective in “genitor” [“father”] just as was the embellishment with which he sang “L’angiol consolatore” [“Consoling angel”]. As if in response to this moving portrayal of paternal need, Rebeka’s Violetta sang “Dite alla giovane” [“Tell your daughter”] with a decidedly slow tempo, so that each word was pronounced in fulfillment of her proposed actions. Both singers were then united in a rising line on “sacrifizio” as Violetta subsequently promised to leave Alfredo.

The following scene of Act Two showed Kelsey just as much to advantage. His performance of “Di Provenza il mar” [“From Provence … the sea”], addressed to a disconsolate Alfredo, was noteworthy for its disciplined approach to phrasing. The aria was performed in its uncut form, so that the audience was privileged to hear a polished performance of a baritone staple which is so often trimmed in other productions. Toward the close of this scene the orchestra, perhaps out of sympathy with the anguish expressed between father and son, played its accompaniment too loudly. In the final part of Act Two, at the salon of Flora, the costumed dancers and additional performers fit well into the overall setting of the party. After the intimate duet between Alfredo and Violetta - leading to anger, misunderstanding, and his public denunciation - Germont père returns and participates in a final ensemble. Here Kelsey’s superb legato could be traced throughout the group, while Rebeka performed her part with searing top notes as she lay on her side. Calleja’s lines “rimorso io n’ho” [“I am sick with remorse”], with equally notable projection, remained the dominant impression at the close of the ensemble.

Act Three is staged at first through the same curtain as at the start of Act One, yet now Violetta lies ill and weak as attended by Annina. After Dr. Grenvil hints discretely that Violetta has only several hours to live, the maidservant is sent off to perform errands. When left alone Violetta sings “Addio, del passato” [“Farewell … of the past”], which Rebeka performed with multiple high notes shading to diminuendo. Her vision of “La tomba ai mortali” [“The tomb for us mortals”], as expressed in this performance, was clearly visible to the protagonist despite a letter announcing the imminent arrival of Alfredo. Although he arrives shortly before Violetta succumbs, their final duet, “Parigi, o cara” [“From Paris, dear”] remains ironically also a vision. The tragedy of her death renders this final lyrical happiness, with Calleja’s leading lines answered touchingly by Rebeka’s sustained responses, a poignant conclusion to this excellent new production of Verdi’s masterpiece.

Salvatore Calomino

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):