The Royal Opera – La traviata

La traviata – Melodramma in three acts to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after the play La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils [sung in Italian with English surtitles]

Violetta Valéry – Ermonela Jaho
Alfredo Germont – Saimir Pirgu
Giorgio Germont – Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Flora Bervoix – Kai Rüütel
Annina – Sarah Pring
Doctor Grenvil – Robert Lloyd
Baron Douphol – Eddie Wade
Gastone de Letorières – Robert Anthony Gardiner
Marquis d’Obigny – Changhan Lim
Giuseppe – Neil Gillespie
Messenger – Charbel Mattar
Servant – Jonathan Gold

Royal Opera Chorus

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Yves Abel

Sir Richard Eyre – Director
Paul Higgins – Revival Director
Bob Crowley – Designs
Jean Kalman – Lighting
Jane Gibson – Director of Movement

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 11 May, 2010
Venue: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Ermonela Jaho as Violetta Valéry & Saimir Pirgu as Alfredo Germont in 'La Traviata' (Royal Opera, May 2010). Photograph: Johan PerssonThis, the first night of the twelfth revival (a run of five performances) of Sir Richard Eyre’s 1994 “La traviata” felt tired. When new, Angela Gheorghiu was made a star, and Georg Solti conducted; a stellar cast always works wonders. Here it was serviceable leads being offered (Dmitri Hvorostovsky excepted) – though July’s four performances are with Gheorghiu, in her first return to the role at Covent Garden since 1994.

“La traviata” is a tragedy, and yet the musical performance here offered anything but: wherever possible, Ermonela Jaho, as Violetta, was desperate to display her vocal fireworks – vibrato a mile wide – without ever getting to the core of the musical expression. Yves Abel hardly helped, trying to break records with rapid tempo choices, his thinking perhaps being that this was a way to inject life. How mistaken: the passion of the music was chopped and the joyous moments came across as throwaway after-thoughts. The net effect was that the singers could not keep up with Abel, and so arching passion and feistiness was lost: the Act One and Two duets between Jaho and Saimir Pirgu (Alfredo), which were sub-zero.

From his first note to his last, Dmitri Hvorostovsky displayed the vocal prowess required for his characterisation as a commanding and resolute father – it was just a pity that his acting was so wooden. His firm baritone conveyed the warmth that made his final contributions of regret entirely credible and moving. Pirgu, however, was a rather pathetic and wet Alfredo. The beginnings of phrases were difficult to decipher, with his line uneven, and it was not always an attractive sound that he produced.

Act Three was a surprising highlight, with real warmth in the principals’ voices, Jaho allowing her voice to glow and relax. As the Doctor, Robert Lloyd made one sit up and notice his striking bass. Other parts passed without incidence. This “La traviata” is in need of a major refresh.

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