26 October 2017 | TheLittleSongbird
'La Traviata' when it comes to Verdi operas has always been in my top 5, the other four being 'Otello', 'Rigoletto', 'Don Carlo' and 'Aida'. The timeless, tragic story rarely fails to move me and Verdi's music is some of his most beautiful.
Have seen and heard many great 'Traviatas', as well as some not so good ones. This 2016 Royal Opera House production is a truly great one, actually almost everything was exceptional, and up there as among one of my most memorable and most emotional opera experiences in recent years. When it comes to rating the production on the emotional and quality scales from one to ten, it exceeds 10 in both, really one of the best 'Traviatas' seen recently or ever. Only the variable sound quality brings things down a notch, but this was the fault of the broadcast in the cinema not the production, when it appears on DVD this issue can be sorted in the way bad video directing can't (which the production does not have).
Visually, a revival of the Richard Eyre production (one of the best of the opera around), the production looks truly gorgeous, up there with one of the most visually beautiful 'La Traviata' productions. Having seen my fair share of visual ugliness and lack of taste, it was truly wonderful to see a production that was true in spirit to the opera's drama and looked great when seeing it in the cinema last year. Sumptuous and elegant are strong enough adjectives to describe the costumes and the sets captures the grandeur of Parisian life and the intimacy of the story perfectly.
Just for the record, don't mind concept or modern productions, as long as any new touches are respectful, are in good taste and actually add anything and that the production still looks good. There are a fair share of those that are good, too many have the above productions.
It's all beautifully staged too. The party scenes really rouse and entertain, giving a real sense of how grand and fun Parisian life was. There is a lot of tension at the end of Act 2, much of the second act has a lot of touching subtlety and nuance and Act 3 absolutely devastates emotionally. 'La Traviata' is every bit the tear-jerker it should be as shown here, but the production has more to this than just the emotional side.
Musically, it's nigh-on perfect. The orchestra bring out all the energy, poetry, lyrical tones, pathos and intensity of Verdi's sublime score with beautiful tone and rich textures. The chorus are balanced beautifully and show individuality in their acting, while the conducting has a real feel for Verdi's style but also a feeling for the drama.
Venera Gimadieva's Violetta is magnificent in every way, citing it as one of the best Violettas personally seen is in no way an exaggeration. Her voice is of gleaming beauty, she tackles the difficult Colouratura of "Sempre Libera" with ease and she has the wide-ranging musicality, silky smooth phrasing and a wide range of tonal colour as well as powerful effortless high notes and superb intonation. She is particularly good in "Ditte Alla Giuvine" and "Addio Del Passato", and she shines in her chemistry with Luca Salsi and with the sympathetically played Annina.
Salsi is every bit her equal as Germont. He has a sonorous, warm, noble-sounding voice that is used with first-class musicality, and as Germont should be he is both stern and sympathetic. His chemistry with Gimadieva is magical, and the best realised character relationship in the production. Also have to praise him for the most beautifully sung, musical and nuanced rendition of "Di Provenza" and the Cabaletta there's been in a long time.
The Alfredo of Saimir Pirgu is not quite up their level, ever so slightly wooden to begin with. However, when Alfredo becomes more interesting and grows, Pirgu's acting range does too especially in Act 3 where his grief and regret is very much believable. He sings with ring and sensitivity throughout.
All the supporting cast are performed very well, especially Annina. Simon Callow's presenting is enthusiastic and erudite.
Overall, truly wonderful production, another one that involved coming out of the cinema with tears running down my face. 10/10 Bethany Cox