Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

23 Jan 2019

Ermonela Jaho is an emotively powerful Violetta in ROH's La traviata

Perhaps it was the ‘Blue Monday’ effect, but the first Act of this revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 production of La Traviata seemed strangely ‘consumptive’, its energy dissipating, its ‘breathing’ rather laboured.

La traviata, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Charles Castronovo as Alfredo Germont and Ermonela Jaho as Violetta Valéry

Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

 

Conductor Antonello Manacorda didn’t inject much life or spirit into the overture: uncharacteristically, the ROH Orchestra seemed drained of colour, the cellos neither bloomed nor ached, and tempi were sluggish. The lacklustre opening certainly wasn’t a case of ‘aging’. Eyre’s production may be 25-years-old but it’s still handsome in conception and design, Bob Crowley’s sets sculpting gracious spaces.

Violetta’s Parisian apartment has a stylish grandeur which brings to mind the art deco entrance hall at Eltham Palace - the overarching dome, through which light seems to burst, highlighting the beautiful veneer and marquetry. Subsequently, the Act 2 rural retreat exudes classy minimalism and artistic taste, while the crimson is still pulsing in the gambling scene, voluptuously lit by Jean Kalman who bathes his frolicking gypsy girls and strutting matadors in rich hues of complementary red and green. Then, finally, the vivacity is blanched and bleached for the death scene, which takes place in a grey, bare room dominated by a huge slanting mirror, its glass blackened and rotting - a photo negative of Violetta’s inner physical decline.

These are images and spaces which conjure passion, excitement and fear. And, given the strong cast assembled it was a surprise that there were few genuine on-stage emotional frissons in Act 1. There was some fine singing but even the redoubtable ROH Chorus, while as vocally secure as always, seemed rather staid and sturdy. Indeed, though on previous occasions I’ve not been troubled by the way the set often pushes the cast and Chorus forwards to the fore-stage, throughout this performance there seemed to be a disappointing predominance of stand-and-sing non-choreography.

Eyre’s production has had countless revivals with numerous divas in the title role. The Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho first stepped into Violetta’s shoes at Covent Garden when she deputised at short notice for an indisposed Anna Netrebko in 2008, and she returned to the role here in 2010 and 2012. Internationally, Violetta Valéry has become one of her most successful roles. But, in Act 1 Jaho and Charles Castronovo - who was Jaho’s Alfredo in Paris last autumn - seemed to be singing ‘at’ rather than ‘to’ each other: there was more emotional spark from the central ice sculpture around which the revellers swirled.

Jaho as Violetta.jpg Ermonela Jaho (Violetta). Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

I wondered if I’d simply seen too many Traviatas of late, after performances by Opera Holland Park , the Glyndebourne Tour and Welsh National Opera in the last few months. But, I think my initial disenchantment has a different root. Jaho is a superb dramatic communicator, but she lacks the sort of lyric sumptuousness that can convince us of Violetta’s captivating allure - such as is required in ‘Ah, fors’ è lui’ and ‘Sempre libera’, which Jaho approached somewhat tentatively. Conversely, the more infirm and fractured Violetta becomes, the more credible is Jaho’s communication of physical and mental vulnerability through vocal slenderness - her frailty, of body and utterance, is compelling. We might expect a singer to use colour and muscular strength to shape a line, phrasing and projecting to convey character; Jaho’s expressive impact seems to be achieved by the inverse. Her tone is rather monochrome, but she can withdraw her soprano until it is the merest whisper - the scant thread which holds Violetta in this world, as the afterlife beckons. And, it is breathtakingly beautiful and touching at times, if occasionally repetitive.

That said, Violetta’s Act 3 demise was heart-breaking. Every tremor, every brief flame, was piercingly emotive. If her Act 2 exchanges with Alfredo’s father were less successful, than that is partly owing to Igor Golovatenko’s inflexible phrasing and overly pressing sound: the tone was strong and true, but it was unwaveringly loud, and this Giorgio Germont came across as a heartless patriarch whose condescension and cruelty - his iron-rod back, and iron-hard delivery - simply overwhelmed Jaho’s brittle delicacy. Golovatenko was more dramatically effective in his subsequent exchanges with Castronovo. And the latter, if he seemed to be lacking the party spirit in the Act 1 brindisi, was chillingly vicious in his humiliation of Violetta in the gambling scene, conveying a truly hurting heart battling with spitefulness.

Alfredo, Violetta, Annina, Doctor Grenvil (c) Ashmore.jpg Charles Castronovo (Alfredo), Ermonela Jaho (Violetta), Catherine Carby (Annina), Simon Shibambu (Doctor Grenvil). Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore.

Overall, though, this was effectively a one-woman show. There were consistent, well-considered performances from Catherine Carby as Annina, and Simon Shibambu as Doctor Grenvil. And, the two Jette Parker Young Artists also impressed: Aigul Akhmetshina was a vivacious Flora, while Germán E. Alcántara showed confidence and presence as Baron Douphol.

But, it was Jaho who, in Acts 2 and 3 at least, commanded and demanded our attention. If a wrenching portrait of physical and psychological demise is what you’re after, this is a Traviata for you. There are, however, two casts for this production , and Angel Blue and Plácido Domingo may throw some different ingredients into the mix.

Claire Seymour

Verdi: La Traviata

Violetta Valéry - Ermonela Jaho, Alfredo Germont - Charles Castronovo, Giorgio Germont - Igor Golovatenko, Annina - Catherine Carby, Flora Bervoix - Aigul Akhmetshina, Baron Douphol - Germán E Alcántara, Doctor Grenvil - Simon Shibambu, Gastone de Letorières - Thomas Atkins, Marquis D'Obigny - Jeremy White, Giuseppe - Neil Gillespie, Messenger - Dominic Barrand, Servant - Jonathan Coad; Director - Richard Eyre, Revival director - Andrew Sinclair, Conductor - Antonello Manacorda, Designer - Bob Crowley, Lighting designer - Jean Kalman, Director of movement - Jane Gibson, Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House.

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Monday 21st January 2019.

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):