Saturday, 19 September 2009

La Traviata – WMC 18th of September 2009

Photo from The Times Online*

For the second day in a row I found myself getting off the little chug-a-lugger of a train that runs between the Bay and Cardiff Queen Street and setting off towards the Armadillo, but this time in a better state of mind than I had done the previous day – partly due to the fact that I was going to see my (probably) favourite opera and partly due to my wearing clothes that didn't smell of dog. Huzzah for working washing machines!

It had been over a week since I'd seen the dress rehearsal and I was keen to see what had changed in the meantime. Would Alfredo grow a moustache? Would Giorgio enter stage left on a unicycle? Would Violetta knit a scarf whilst singing Sempre libera? Fortunately for the audience none of the above took place (maybe Salzburg would like to contact me about directing a new production?).

Andrea Licata is a curious conductor – unlike the vast majority of his colleagues he shuns applause at the beginning of a performance, preferring to ninja style his way to the podium and begin affairs as soon as the lights dim – which I don't mind except that this being Wales several people were caught mid-gossip and continued to WHISPER very QUIETLY during the opening prelude.

Once everyone got the last of their whispers out of their systems the action returned to the stage. Alfie Boe (Alfredo) had been a minor cause for concern for me during the dress rehearsal, but he slapped my wrist for doubting his ability to pull a vocal shift. There was a passion to his singing throughout the night that had been lacking a week earlier and he became the third cog in the dramatic wheelhouse. Thankfully the de-kitted Alfredo was allowed to keep his trousers on during the opening of the second act that did away with the oohhs that erupted during the dress rehearsal – and I suspect Mr Boe was very glad as it must be seriously off putting for people to be ignoring your singing and concentrating on your backside.

Dario Solari again impressed as Giorgio Germont, although I could do with a bit more attack in his voice during the more dramatic passages. A curse of having such an apparently easy on the ear voice? Perhaps. Again his Act II scene with Myrto Papatanasiu was the highlight of the evening, even if he did sound a touch tired towards the end of the act as he shared the stage with Boe. A nice little detail in the confrontation has Alfredo reacting violently to his father, a change from the usual take on things that paints Snr in a less domineering light than is usual and perhaps explains the absence of dogmatism in his singing. A Giorgio not so in control of affairs is certainly an interesting prospect...

Of course, to have a successful Traviata, you need a Violetta who can sing her green shoes off – and a second meeting with Myrto Papatanasiu was confirmation that she is a singer very probably heading places over the coming years. Although she isn't quite the finished article at this moment in time her voice needs only smoothing in small places, and perhaps a guiding hand here or there to suggest how she can best get the most of what is an impressive instrument. È strano! in Act I was superbly sung and deserved the applause that came her way. She followed this with a fearless Sempre libera, complete with high notes that escape many sopranos. Again she was a Violetta to be reckoned with, which made her decline in the final act all the more moving. Addio del passato was a poignant high (low) point that had the audience so enthralled that not a single one managed to raise an applause – but don't worry, she got plenty at the final curtain.

One or two rambles before you can go your way – could the management at the WMC hand out cough sweets at the beginning of the third act as Violetta's coughing was drowned out by the audience getting too much into the performance. As for Addio del passato – I'm not sure if we're getting the 7" version as opposed to the 33⅓ rpm LP version, or maybe I'm enjoying it to the extent that I'm wanting an encore. Okay – where was the chorus at applause time? It seemed a tad odd not having them to enjoy the fruit of their labours...

And that's all folks – I'll probably try and see another performance but will save you having to read all about it. What you can read though, if you're a member of the cheaper seats, away from John Lennon's jewellery rattlers in the stalls, is the inscription that runs across the black marble styled floor of the stage – Ici Ripose... (the ...'s are mine). Essentially the stage is a gravestone / tomb cracked at one corner playing out the last days of Violetta Valery, and if I were you I'd catch the last days of this production as I'm not sure if WNO will have another Violetta of such quality again. for the * bit - not wanting to run into trouble over copyright if the snapper who took the photo would like a credit please get in touch as I couldn't find a name on The Times Online...

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