12 September 2012 | TheLittleSongbird
Very moving on the whole
La Traviata was my first Verdi opera, and is still to this day one of my favourites. This Zurich performance could have gone either way, either being well-performed and moving or uneven and cold. Luckily it was the former, and while not my favourite Traviata(Zeffirelli's 1982 film) there is much to recommend it. On the visual side, it is very simple but effective, not quite sumptuous like Zeffirelli's but definitely not stark like the very recent Met production. I did like how Germont was dressed to look like a Swiss banker. Jurgen Flimm's stage direction never feels cluttered or dull, the party and chorus scenes have their fun while the more moving, principal-based moments have intimacy.
The orchestra play with lushness and pathos, their accompanying in Addio Del Passato and Ditte Alla Giuvine was the very meaning of sensitive. Franz Welser-Most's conducting pays attention to nuances and to accommodating the singers and never lets the production fall into dullness. The chorus are vibrant in singing and dramatic character, especially in Brindisi and the Matador's Chorus. The supporting cast are all solid as rocks, with nobody particularly problematic. But La Traviata is a largely principal-based work, and all three have some fine moments.
Eva Mei is clearly dramatically committed, especially in the third act where she is heart-breaking, and her pianissimo singing in Ditte Alla Giuvine is really beautifully done. Overall it was a vulnerable and touching performance. Her singing was uneven for me, in the last two acts it was very sensitively and intelligently used but in Act 1 it lacked agility and was a little too heavy on the vibrato. Piotr Beczala is a handsome Alfredo, and despite a somewhat histrionic Act 2 confrontation scene he is thrilling and moving. His voice is as ever beautifully honeyed and lyrical, Un Di Felice is particularly marvellous. Thomas Hampson I generally think was better as Germont in the Villazon and Netrebko production. He does sing very well actually, his singing does show sternness and sympathy in Act 2 and Di Provenza absolutely deserved the biggest applause of the evening. I did think him rather stiff though with some aimless walking around and some dated gestures and when the role of Germont called for him to be morally nasty Hampson could have done that more subtly.
Overall, a very moving production on the whole especially in the last act. 8/10 Bethany Cox