Thursday, July 9, 2009

Night 1: La Traviata at the ROH

ROH, July the 3rd

I wanted to approach this Traviata with "fresh ears" and didn't bother to listen to any of the recordings from the first few nights (abundant in pirate circles) or watch the online videos from the big-screen night of La Traviata. Of course I had already read the reviews, most of them raving, had read the comments of the haters and those of the fans. Thus, I had a very specific idea of what I was about to see. But things weren't exactly the way I thought they would be (alas! those haters!).

Yes, Renée Fleming might have summoned once again what she's been accused of (her so-called mannerisms - the scooping, the overacting etc etc.) but hers was a fine Traviata. Or I would say, a different, fine Traviata.

It was obvious from the very beginning that Renée had revisited both the score and the libretto and wanted her Violetta to sound unique, to sing it like no one has sung it before. And this was quite an achievement. Not really for Act 1, where it was obvious that she 'd been having problems with the fierce high notes and the coloratura of Sempre Libera but rather for Acts II & III where Fleming managed to build a credible Violetta Valery, displaying her wonderful voice, her breathtaking messe di voce and her equation with Violetta. Cons of her performance: well, the scooping, some bizarre chest sounds, the letter reading, and the last few phrases of Violetta "É strano, cessarono gli spasmi..." etc that to my ears sounded quite weird.

Joseph Calleja was absolutely stunning. A healthy, robust voice with solid high notes, golden indeed (no wonder why his second Decca CD carries that title) that left me really impressed.

Same applies to Thomas Hampson(g) who was a dark, authoritative Germont. After a wonderful "Di Provenza" (that usually gets me reaaaally bored- not this time though) he sang an even more beautiful "No, non udrai rimproveri" and he left me breathless with his majestic "Di sprezzo degno".

I might have failed mentioning Tony Pappano in my previous posts about Il Barbiere, but I had no words- the man is a genius! In 2 consecutive days, this excellent maestro conducted a verdian and a rossinian masterpiece with the same ease and made his orchestra product a distinctive sound in both cases, absolutely adapted to the style of the operas (some minor flaws like some temporarily lack of co-ordination between pit and soloists/chorus and my objection to some of his tempi - the presto "Addio del passato" for example- are not even worth mentioning).

Joseph Calleja - Lunge da lei /De' miei bollenti spiriti

Fleming/Hampson - Morró

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