Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata
Thursday, October 30, 2014, Opera Națională București, Season opening
Conductor: Alexander Prior
Directed by: Paul Curran
Sets: Gary McCann
Lighting design: Paul Hakenmueller
Chorus Master: Stelian Olariu
Aurelia Florian – Violetta Valéry; Ioan Hotea – Alfredo Germont; Ionuț Pascu – Giorgio Germont; Andrei Lazăr – Gastone; Sidonia Nica – Flora Bervoix; Cristina Eremia – Annina; Vasile Chișiu – Baronul Douphol; Daniel Filipescu – D’Obigny; Iustinian Zetea – Grenvil; Florian Ioniță – Giuseppe;
Here is my review published in „Opera” magazine:
Bucharest National Opera opened the season on 30 October with a new production of Verdi’s La traviata. Răzvan Dincă, the general manager of the house, has been ambitious to renovate the theatre’s building (designed in 1953 by architect Octav Doicescu) in only three months, and to get director Paul Curran to stage the season’s premiere. The result is a completely new acoustics in the auditorium, and a sold out opening night, surprisingly rising the media interest in the middle of the presidential elections that will take place on the same weekend.
Paul Curran placed the action of the opera in the 1950’s, in Paris, considering that this is the last decade of moral conservatism regarding sexuality, that can be linked to the significations of Dumas story. The sets designed by Gary McCann were in fact interiors with puzzle-like walls built from panels decorated in the Belle Epoque style, inspired by the eclectic architecture of Bucharest itself. But Romania is an Eastern European country, still morally conservative, and the result of this production was rather timeless, with many moments, especially in act two, when the public felt the action as being more contemporary than intended by the director. The eclectic panels and the chandeliers made together a whole concept, with its own evolution from a large ball room in the first act, spectacularly illuminated by the lighting designer Paul Hakenmuller, towards a dark corridor pointing to Violetta’s death, in the final scene. On the other hand, this permanent use of the same sets in various combinations also induced some monotony as the action progressed. The acting and moving of the cast and chorus were fluid and natural, preserving the true values of the drama.
The 22 years old conductor Alexander Prior led an orchestra not yet accustomed with the new acoustics of the theatre, but to great effect, mixing tempi from a lethargic prelude to a brisk ballo of the matadori, passing through emotional waves of passion in the second act.
There were two casts for this La traviata, in a series of two performances each. The premiere had Aurelia Florian in the title role, who delivered a solid interpretation, effective in resolving the difficulties of the first act’s Sempre libera, bringing emotion in the second one’s Amami Alfredo, and preserving good taste and sobriety in the last act’s Addio del passato. Her Alfredo was the young tenor Ioan Hotea, recently moved from Rossini and Donizetti to the lyrical Verdi roles. While his tone provided much quality, with a metallic shine, his vocal instrument proved to be too light for the requirements of the role. Ionuț Pascu was impeccable as a traditional but complex Giorgio Germont: a dark but lyrical baritone voice, playing all the nuances of the character.
In the second cast (31 October), the lack of style was obvious throughout the whole performance. Siphiwe McKenzie’s Violetta lost all the battles with the coloratura, while Iordache Basalic’s Germont ignored phrasing and diction. There was only one consolation, with Alfredo, the tenor Lucian Corchiș: an old style lyrical characterisation, but insufficient to save the day.
And here is a photo gallery: