The Royal Opera – La traviata – Lisette Oropesa, Liparit Avetisyan & Christian Gerhaher; conducted by Antonello Manacorda

Verdi
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 Valery – Lisette Oropesa
Alfredo Germont – Liparit Avetisyan
Giorgio Germont – Christian Gerhaher
Flora Bervoix – Stephanie Wake-Edwards
Annina – Renata Skarelyte
Dr Grenvil – Blaise Malaba
Baron Douphol – Yuriy Yurchuk
Gastone de Letorières – Egor Zhuravskii
Marquis d’Obigny – Jeremy White
Giuseppe – Andrew MacNair
Messenger – Dominic Barrand
Servant – Thomas Barnard

Royal Opera Chorus

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Antonello Manacorda

Richard Eyre – Director
Pedro Ribiero – Revival director
Bob Crowley – Designs
Jean Kalman – Lighting
Jane Gibson – Movement director


3 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 27 October, 2021
Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Richard Eyre’s staging of Verdi’s La traviata has been an almost continual feature of the Royal Opera House’s annual programming for over a quarter of a century – beating the duration of the previous Visconti staging soundly, and no doubt keeping the books balanced. In that time, it has showcased many memorable exponents in the principal roles (albeit not always simultaneously), and an impressive listing of conductors. However, to the ‘regular attendee’ with a liking for this work the danger of routine is an ever present one, and that cohort will be keenly anticipative of something out of the ordinary. This latest revival under Antonello Manacorda and sympathetically directed by Pedro Ribiero manages to bring such elements; instances that make one sit up upon registering something afresh. Manacaroda’s tempos are generally rather relaxed and occasionally very expansive, during Alfredo’s ‘Un di felice, eterea’ for example. The Orchestra is very responsive to his demands and provide a reading with some nuance. Most memorable is the abrupt halt to the music and a shock of silence when Violetta announces that if Alfredo’s return to Paris cannot save her then she is doomed.

This moment also showed Ribiero’s direction and the acting talents of his Violetta and Alfredo at their most sensitive. Lisette Oropesa and Liparit Avetisyan once again display their compatibility as stage partners and vocally. Both have great sense of line and attractive fresh voices throughout their ranges. Oropesa’s voice possesses all the brightness and fluidity needed atop, and yet it is the beauty and individuality of her warm middle register with its distinctive ‘beat’ that strikes one as most remarkable. She’s an impressive actress too, never letting you forget Violetta’s solitariness amidst society and the passage of her illness. She reads Giorgio Germont’s letter with much point. Avetisyan’s Alfredo has been seen in this staging before, and his gauche yet hot-headed Alfredo is full of charm and impetuosity both dramatically and vocally. He catches the desperation of the character as his world crashes down around him at the end with powerful restraint.

Sadly, the Germont Père of Christian Gerhaher is a disappointment on this showing. One really hopes he was having an ‘off-night’ for his singing did not display the focus and nuance for which he is justly renowned. Instead, his vocalism is a bit blustery, lacks dynamic finesse and at times he sounds uncomfortable with the tessitura. The interpretation is interesting nonetheless, the self-obsession with his standing in society and his violence towards those he feels threaten it chillingly portrayed in the central Act.

There is a cast of nicely individual cameos in the smaller roles, notably Yuriy Yurchuk’s upright, unpleasant Baron Douphol and Stephanie Wake-Edwards’s fruitily-vocalised Flora on this occasion and the chorus was on fine form.

Further autumn / winter performances on October 29, 30, 31 (mat), November 2, 3, 6 (mat and eve), 9, 11, 13, 15 and 17; there are many casting combinations!

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