The Grand Premiere of La Traviata at the SF Opera
Okay, the first thing I will do is apologize about writing this review almost a week after the premiere actually happened. But nonetheless, I think it is necessary to write about such an event. (I want to mention that I went to the dress rehearsal of Kern's Showboat and didn't write anything on it because I was too lazy.)
The set itself was very colorful and attractive. The costumes were beautiful and made the production very nice to look at. The set designer is John Conklin. Cabell, Violetta, had beautiful rich tones in the lower register of her voice rather than in the higher one, which to me seemed quite strange considering the fact that Violetta is a role for a lyric soprano. Her high notes were enticing nonetheless, but they didn't seem as those of a soprano. Her dramatic manner of singing added to the unfortunate character of Violetta and helped the audience understand the adversities the fallen woman was forced to face. When Cabell and Stoyanov (Papa Germont) were singing together in Act II, I wanted to hear more dramatics that Cabell had demonstrated in her love duet with Pirgu (Alfredo Germont). The fact that Violetta realizes that by being happy herself she is ruining the future of an innocent girl who did nothing wrong but being Alfredo's sister leads to another set of emotions in Violetta. This affliction for both father and daughter must cause more tribulations in a woman such as Violetta than falling in love with a random stranger. Pirgu was very emotionally connected to the music he was singing. I heard him as Tybalt in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the SF Opera with Joyce DiDonato as Romeo and Nicole Cabell as Giulietta. I must say that I enjoyed both Pirgu and Cabell more in I Capuleti e i Montecchi than in La Traviata. The question I ask myself is did I enjoy them more because of them or because of the opera? I suspect that maybe both Pirgu and Cabell have voices that are perfect for composers like Bellini and not very much for composers such as Verdi.
I found Stoyanov's singing out there and intriguing, but I didn't find enough character in his interpretation of Papa Germont. I cannot say that he didn't act the role well, but there was something missing. Something from the inside, I believe, which makes the outside so believable that the audience forgets that they are at the opera. Although Zvede (Flora) did not necessarily have a whole ton to sing, I enjoyed her voice's texture and the way it flew over the orchestra like a big wave. I'm looking forward to hearing her in some other production soon.
The assumption may be made from reading the title of this article that the premiere was grand. Yes, it was grand alright. But not grand enough? I don't know how to phrase this in such a way to not make it sound like the premiere was a fiasco. Because it wasn't! On the contrary, I could tell how much the singers were working and their efforts paid off. The only thing I wasn't happy with was some of the tempo markings Maestro Luisotti used. Other than that, it was great.
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I saw the cast of Wednesday night (conducted by Nicola Luisotti) with Nicole Cabell as Violetta Valéry, Saimir Pirgu as Alfredo Germont, and Vladimir Stoyanov as Giorgio Germont. The rest of the cast was Zanda Svede as Flora Bervoix, Daniel Montenegro as Gastone, Dale Travis as Baron Douphol, Hadleigh Adams as Marquis D'Obigny, Andrew Craig Brown as Doctor Grenvil, Erin Johnson as Annina, Christopher Jackson as Giuseppe, Torlef Borsting as Flora's servant, and Bojan Knežević as Messenger.
Stay tuned for a review on Mozart's Cosi fan tutte at the Teatro alla Scala!