Sunday, April 22, 2018

Moshinsky's lavish La traviata for Opera Australia is brought to vivid life once again in Melbourne

Published in Melbourne's Herald Sun in edited form, 19th April and online 23rd April 2018.

Since 1994, Elijah Moshinsky’s lavish production of Verdi’s La traviata for Opera Australia has provided a highly detailed view into famed courtesan Violetta Valéry’s 19th century world. From Violetta’s sumptuously appointed salon to the courtyard outside her country villa, onto the Moorish exoticism at her friend Flora’s party and, finally, to the spare and faded glory of her surrounds as she desperately hopes to live, Michael Yeargan’s sets and Peter Hall’s intricate costumes are a masterpiece of stage design.

Scene from Act 1, La traviata, Opera Australia
Back in Melbourne to open the autumn season, it was brought to vivid life by a strong lead cast, depth of character in supporting roles and a wonderfully rich chorus under revival director Constantine Costi.

Nothing feels superfluous in Verdi and librettist Piave’s taut dramatic structure and story that appeals just as much today to our own sense of moral justice as it did to the ‘respectable’ classes of its day.

Struck by love in partying pleasure and swilling champagne from the bottle like there’s no tomorrow as she defies the tuberculosis that weakens her, American soprano Corinne Winters worked the festivities vivaciously in creamy-rich voice as Violetta. A few nervous trips in timing impeded initial ownership of the role but, stirred by emotion and pondering if Alfredo could be the one when left alone singing “È strano! ... Ah, fors'è lui” (“Ah, perhaps he is the one"), Winters bloomed marvellously. It was the emotional emphatic bursts on single phrases that genuinely crowned her performance.

Yosep Kang’s youthful Alfredo instantly impressed with his ripe, resonant and passionately driven tenor. Together with Winters, the vocal blend entwined affectingly, most poignantly in Act 3’s duet of hopeless optimism. If only the eyes met more often and the kisses planted more tenderly to cement the chemistry overall.

Corinne Winters as Violetta and José Carbó Giorgio Germont
But the central conflict that upheaves momentary tranquility in Act 2 with the arrival of Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, came with sublime dramatic interplay between Winters, Kang and baritone José Carbó in brilliant authoritative form as the stern and distinguished father.

Dominica Matthews made a striking show as a bubbly, laissez-faire Flora. Notably robust performances also drove home the context of male dominance with John Longmuir as Gastone, Adrian Tamburini as Barone Douphol and Tom Hamilton as Marquis d'Obigny.
Conductor Carlo Montanaro exerted sympathetic and moody breadth to the score, rightfully applauding in gesture at curtain call the threadbare weeping string playing that contrasted with the larger orchestral lushness of Orchestra Victoria.

How much longer Moshinsky’s iconic La traviata will adorn the company’s future is unknown but when it’s gone, it will be worthy for classification on an historic register.

La traviata 
Opera Australia
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Until 11th May, 2018


Production Photos: Jeff Busby

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