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  New York La Traviata - Zeffirelli at his best with great singing as well

La Traviata – the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

Sat 31st March 2007 8pm

ViolettaKrassimira Stoyanova
AlfredoJonas Kaufmann
GermontDwayne Croft
Cond.Marco Armiliato
Production & set designs:Franco Zeffirelli

Dear Colleagues,

This was a superb Traviata performance in an inspired production with world class principals, orchestra and chorus.

Both soprano Stoyanova and tenor Kaufmann started out somewhat weakly but each quickly rose to the substantial occasion.

I was surprised to note that the free Met program now gives over 4 pages to advertising an addictive sleep medication including a free 7 day trial offer. And this is in the country which, like Saudi Arabia, banned alcohol! Some strange harmony of contrasts!

Back to our night’s opera which has spectacularly beautiful sets designed by Franco Zeffirelli who also did the production. He must have been given an unlimited budget, just as the composer was for his later operas. I recall once seeing this production when the overture saw Violetta in her upstairs bedroom preparing for the Act I party scene. As she descended the curved staircase to the parlor, the entire set rose to show the party scene in full swing. The stage is a sumptuous set of three rooms across with a dance floor also visible through glass doors up-stage. We have chairs, cushions, couches, mantelpiece, trays, glasses and all the other attributes of a good party. In this production we only saw use of the Met stage elevator for the last act which commenced in the upstairs boudoir and moved to the eviscerated parlor for the return of the Germonts. It was impressive mechanically and visually but hardly credible in one too weak to get dressed that she could descend a spiral staircase and cross two rooms unaided (but this is the theater!).

Mention should be made of the other two substantial sets. The second act ‘country’ scene takes place in a huge glass conservatory or ‘orangerie’ looking out onto a lake surrounded by mountains. It looked more like Milford Sound than the Loire valley. A charming setting for the wrenching music of act II.

Mr Zeffirelli pulls out all the stops for the casino scene, a tiered festive chamber with curved steps convex and concave surmounted by deep red translucent curtains adorned with jewels. Props include papier-mâché heads on sticks from the theatre of the absurd, mock matadors, mock bulls and mock gypsies (and real castañets). And all making a wonderful foil for the tense scene between the parted lovers.

Bulgarian Ms Stoyanova has a voice which is large and accurate. If ‘white’ in quality, she shades it delicately from finest pianissimo to a broad bellow. She has a serviceable trill and staccato facility. She left out the (unwritten) E flat in ‘Sempre libera’ yet seemed secure on all her other high tessitura. Munich born Mr Kaufmann has a splendid and rare tenor voice, worthy of the part and of the theatre. Once again, capable of taking a loud note back to the softest audible and returning to full voice, all without appearing to show off beyond the requirements of the score. Their ‘Parigi O cara’ duet was taken particularly slowly by Maestro Amiliato to excellent effect. Kaufman looked somewhat awkward in Act I, perhaps just ‘in character’. Unlike most off-Broadway tenors, he is young, tall, slim and handsome.

Baritone Dwayne Croft acts well and he possesses a sublime, warm voice. However, he fell just short on his highest notes which seemed a little uncomfortable. I don’t know why the Met always leaves out Germont senior’s animated cabaletta after his ‘Di Provenza il mar il suol’. This leaves us with a precipitous and unnatural termination of the action as the spotlight suddenly moves to the Paris casino invitation from Flora while the curtain is falling.

An excellent performance, being the final after a long Met season – and three different Violettas.

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..

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