Saturday, 28 March 2015

Snuff film at a bagnio in the wrong arrondissement (Opera North Traviata)

Verdi, La Traviata  (Orchestra of Opera North cond. Justin Doyle).
ON's Traviata is dark, seductive but fundamentally uneven. The first act seemed rather rocky: the orchestra was uneven as Justin Doyle conducted the first performance of it, and really quite unsatisfying staging. An orientalist sort of bagnio was set up, with the majority of the set looking like the sort of thing only advertised in tile catalogues – far too much of a loud tile pattern . A giant, ugly bed covered in horrible blanket – many oriental in pattern would be measuring. This was the sort of place to set Hausmann thinking about refiguring. Projected through the aria was a round disc: either a microscope showing Violetta’s TB, or the moon. This was the one clever device in the first scene. But when Violetta (Anna Jeruc-Kopec ) and Alfredo sang, any concerns leapt out the window. I didn’t believe that our wonderful singers had the slightest hint of attraction to each other.
Image: Opera North/Richard H Smith.
The first of two intervals. Act two, scene one opened in a lovely place by the sea or a lake. The bed had become a decking or dock and the most gentle sky scene was projected. This slowly turned to clouds. This was a beautiful piece of staging, but again unconvincing. Stephen Gadd’s Giorgio Germont lacked gravitas or power.
The second scene was a swish party, and it was great. Here the set got really clever. A giant rose window with glittering stars behind. And faceless men in masks and white tie watched on at Violetta’s suffering. Previous ‘friends’, presumably. The Gipsy entertainments at the party were presented as Carmen's troupe of entertainers to great and comic effect.
Image: Opera North/Richard H Smith.
Act three hits the emotional climax. It is a hard slog. Now Violetta and Alfredo had chemistry. His arrival really did seem to be warmly greeted. As the heroine expired, the masked gentlemen stood up behind the gauze and the window, and applauded. This was all a big snuff film.

Overall: this was much less stylish, coherent or exquisite than the Glyndebourne production last year (both at the festival and on tour), but with a Violetta and Alfredo of this quality, and many clever moments in the staging, much can be forgiven.

Opera north site.

Violetta Valéry: Anna Jeruc-Kopec
Flora Bervoix: Victoria Sharp
Annina: Louise Collett
Alfredo Germont: Ji-Min Park
Giorgio Germont: Stephen Gadd
Gastone: Daniel Norman
Baron Douphol: Peter Savidge
Marquis d'Obigny: Nicholas Butterfield
Doctor Grenvil: Dean Robinson
Conductor: Justin Doyle
Director: Alessandro Talevi
Set and Costume Designer: Madeleine Boyd
Lighting Designer: Matthew Haskins
Choreographer: Victoria Newlyn

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