Glamour and Decay
04/17/2018 - & April 21, 23, 28, 30, May 2, 4, 8, 11, 2018
Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata
Corrine Winters (Violetta Valéry), Yosep Kang*/Ho-Yoon Chung (Alfredo Germont), José Carbó (Giorgio Germont), Dominica Matthews (Flora Bervoix), John Longmuir (Gastone), Adrian Tamburini (Baron Douphol), Tom Hamilton (Marquis d’Obigny), Gennadi Dubinsky (Doctor Grenvil), Natalie Aroyan (Annina), Jin Tea Kim (Giuseppe), Jonathan McCauley (Messenger), Malcolm Ede (Servant)
Opera Australia Chorus, Anthony Hunt (Chorus Master), Orchestra Victoria, Yi Wang (Concertmaster), Carlo Montanaro (Conductor)
Elijah Moshinsky (Director), Constantine Costi (Revival Director), Michael Yeargan (Set Designer), Peter J. Hall (Costume Designer), Nigel Levings (Lighting Designer)
(© Jeff Busby)
As a season opener, it would be hard to beat La Traviata – guaranteed full houses, lots of media coverage, sparkling score and the ideal vehicle for introducing a star soprano. This production, first aired by Opera Australia in 1994, continues to deliver “in spades”. The enormous opening night crowd were vocally enthusiastic. The glitz and glamour of the production captivates even after this extended run and the Opera Australia debut of American Corrine Winters was rapturously received.
From the first notes of the Prelude, Italian conductor Carlo Montanaro drew from the orchestra subtle and delicate colours emphasizing the fragility of Violetta’s health juxtaposed against the vibrancy of Parisian Beau Monde society. The rollicking drunkenness of the opening party scene sits disturbingly alongside hints at the heroine’s impending demise. Maestro Montanaro highlighted this duality in restrained and tactful shading, eventually conceding to the effervescence of the Brindisi albeit with Violetta only just managing to keep herself chirpy despite her illness. In many ways, the conductor’s rendition was as dramatic and varied as the masterful acting of Ms Winters’ Violetta.
Orchestra Victoria again benefitted from the wealth of particularly European experience brought by the conductor. La Traviata demands from the band no less than from the singers, a constantly changing range of emotions, colours and tempi. Despite its familiarity, this opera is no “push over”. It is a difficult piece to bring off and the playing of the orchestra was essential to the overall impact of the piece. Orchestra Victoria is a highly accomplished ensemble which continues to deliver quality performances.
Similarly, the Opera Australia Chorus gave a wonderful performance. Varied, lively and vivacious, they danced, strutted and joked their way through this busy production and as always, the sound quality was impeccable.
Elijah Moshinsky’s ravishingly beautiful production just continues to improve with age. It is like a fine wine: brash and delicate at once and layered with intricate details. The stage is packed tightly in the first act as in the second party scene. Furniture almost fills the elaborate interiors of both Violetta’s salon and the casino-like setting of Flora’s party. Yet the clutter never leads to claustrophobia; it is a faithful rendition of fin de siècle interior design against which the wildly elaborate costumes seem perfectly at home.
The overall look of each act is drawn from Impressionist paintings; referenced in the colour palette, attention to intricate details and the subtle play of light achieved so brilliantly in Nigel Leving’s design. With set designer Michael Yeargan and costume designer Peter J. Hall, Mr Moshinsky has created and populated a world which so naturally fits with the score and libretto that they achieve absolute plausibility even down to the ludicrous send-up of the “Gypsy Chorus”.
Making her Opera Australia debut for this Melbourne audience, American Corrine Winters brings an abundance of knowledge to her signature role. She is as much an actor who sings as an operatic star. Her ease and fluidity on the stage allow her to relax into the character and focus on many elements which breathe life into a character. Her addition of tiny details – a hurried swig from a bottle to choke a threatening coughing fit; the donning of an implied mask during the “Sempre libera” to disguise her emotions; a cringe when the Baron dismisses her with the flick of a gambling chip in her direction. All these myriad components brought Violetta to life. Ms Winters’ dark and rich vocal tone handled with ease the many vigorous demands Verdi makes of his protagonist. This was a captivating portrait which drew well-deserved applause.
Tenor Yosep Kang brought a dynamism and stature to Alfredo which was an excellent foil to Violetta’s glamorous façade. His voice is powerful and subtle: soaring easily above the orchestra and chorus and capable of great tenderness and emotion. His portrait of Alfredo is somewhat reserved until given the opportunity to openly declare his love and commitment. Compared to his conservative father, he seems a wanton but this is no idle playboy; he is a thoughtful and intelligent man who represents an idealised lover devoid of social class and oblivious to the frivolities of the “beautiful people”. When he realises the impact of his actions flinging the money at Violetta in Act 2 scene 2, he is crushed and we are just as devastated for him.
Baritone José Carbó is an immediately credible Giorgio. Mr Carbó is as strong an actor as he is a wonderful singer. This desperate father means no ill will despite representing the double standards of the patriarchal society, he simply wants the best for his family and throughout Mr Carbó’s performance we are committed to this belief. His voice is rich and dark; it penetrates powerfully while maintaining warmth of tone which endears this character to us.
As Flora, Dominica Matthews gives another of her sterling performances for this company. So much an adjunct to the chorus, this character could easily become a part of the scenery but for Ms Matthews’ strength in stagecraft and vocal rendition.
This is a worthy revival of a production which just seems to improve with age and experience.