La Traviata, Royal Opera House, London, November 2000

La Traviata, The Evening Standard, 27 November 2000
La Traviata at full throttle, The Guardian, 27 November 2000


La Traviata
Tom Sutcliffe, The Evening Standard, 27 November 2000

Non-fatal sickness cast a blight over the Royal Opera's Traviata on
Friday. Or would have, had not Victoria Loukianetz flown in from Vienna
at two hours' notice. We got a plucky performance from her as Violetta -
tightly focused singing, if a rather lost air on stage. Elena Kelessidi
was back last night, not yet easy at the climactic "gioir" in Sempre
libera - and not helped much by conductor Simone Young when occasionally
out of phase. With Kelessidi's beautiful Violetta and Giuseppe
Sabbatini's gloriously musical Alfredo, this revival of Richard Eyre's
well-crafted, easy-going staging is top notch. Actually, Simone Young's
laid-back conducting works up the atmosphere very well.

Sabbatini's style is noble and elegant, his phrasing and agility moulded
with precision - aquiline, like his looks. Words feel meant. Top notes
satisfy more than thrill. He's at his most involving not in the
brindisi, but in the soliloquising act two aria De' miei bollenti
spiriti. A touch mature for its sentiments, perhaps. But the cabaletta
was youthfully fiery on Monday. He acts as he sings - with studied
conviction. One nice touch is how he makes the messenger's little
daughter wait after she's brought him Violetta's letter, then presses a
white flower into her hand.

Of course, it's Violetta's opera. Kelessidi takes command in a series of
calculated, charming, welcome gambits for the prime guests at the very
start. She doesn't overdo the suffering: best in Traviata to make a
little silent coughing go a long way. Kelessidi sounds as lovely as she
looks, though her emotional lower register only gradually regained its
allure. Her coloratura isn't exciting, but the way she suggests
Violetta's character and dreams is excellent. Her voice has an engaging
emotional flutter. A pity Eyre staged the aftermath of Alfredo's insult
in such a theatrically wooden way.

Thomas Allen's Germont Pere is wonder-fully sensitive, but lacks the
vocal authority (rounded focus and expansive volume) a more Italian
style would provide. Allen's well-mannered, gentle English singing
doesn't really gell with Sabbatini and Kelessidi - though he conveys
Germont's character well. In their duet, Kelessidi needs the stimulus of
a weightier Germont.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

La Traviata at full throttle
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 27 November 2000

Now on its umpteenth outing, The Royal Opera's production of La Traviata
has matured somewhat. Richard Eyre's staging has been reworked by
Patrick Young, who has restored to it the sharpness of focus, the
scrupulous clarity of observation and the penetrating moral awareness
that have slipped from view a bit during previous revivals.

In many respects, this is Traviata as it should be - a study of a
transgressive passion that not only offends the bourgeois conventions
that strive to constrain desire within marriage, but also flouts the
demi-monde code that demands sex be divorced from love.

That the staging retained its force on opening night was even more
remarkable given that a last-minute cast change was involved, with the
Ukrainian soprano Victoria Loukianetz replacing the indisposed Elena
Kellesidi as Violetta. Loukianetz avoids the victimised waif approach,
suggesting sexual knowledge as well as physical frailty in the opening
scenes. She is a woman aware that time is running out , avid for a depth
of emotion that will free her from the arid "vortices of sensuality" (as
the libretto puts it). In the brief moments before the opera's
catastrophic turning point, she radiates contentment. At the end, she
portrays Violetta's protracted demise with an excruciating literalness
that avoids sentimentality. Vocally, she is impressive, if uneven. There
are moments of harshness at full throttle, and the act one finale was
marred by an unsteady lunge at an interpolated top E flat. On the plus
side, we get coloratura of pin-prick accuracy, and a flawless, limpid
smoothness in the great scene when she yields to Germont's moral
pressure and gives Alfredo up.

Thomas Allen and Giuseppe Sabbatini tellingly play the father and son
who destroy and create her emotional world. Sabbatini's Alfredo is no
innocent idealist, but a refined sensualist who is knocked off balance
by his own feelings, and whose rebelliousness and incipient violence are
shown as being the product of his father's rigidity. Allen suggests both
the repression and the brutality beneath Germont's bourgeois veneer.
When Violetta begs him to embrace her as his daughter, he avoids her in
embarrassed revulsion. His first reaction on seeing his errant son is to
raise his hand against him, while Sabbatini cowers in terror. Both men
are completely compelling, even though Germont lies a bit low for Allen
in places. Sabbbatini, however, is in glorious voice, with every note
and phrase perfectly shaded.

In the pit, things are regrettably less than ideal. Conductor Simone
Young favours extreme speeds - dawdling in places and at other times
taking the score at such a lick that the ensemble comes close to flying

© The Guardian


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