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A fine return of a favourite work

Wales Millennium Centre
09/21/2018 -   & September 28, 30, October 4, 6 (Cardiff), 10, 12 (Oxford), 17, 19 (Llandudno), 25, 27 (Bristol), November 7, 9 (LIverpool), 14, 16 (Birmingham), 21, 23 (Southampton), 2018
Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata
Linda Richardson*/Anush Hovhannisyan (Violetta Valéry), Kan Wang (Alfredo Germont), Roland Wood (Giorgio Germont), Rebecca Afonwy-Jones (Flora), Sian Neinir (Annina), Philip Lloyd-Evans (Marquis d'Obigny), James Cleverton*/Wyn Pencarrig (Baron Douphol), Howard Kirk (Gaston), Simon Crosby Buttle (Giuseppe), Martin Lloyd (Dr Grenvil), George Newton-Fotzgeral (Messenger)
The Welsh National Opera Chorus, Thomas Blunt (chorus master), The Welsh National Opera Orchestra, James Southall (conductor)
David McVicar (director), Sarah Crisp (revival director), Tanya McCallin (designer), Jennifer Tipton (lighting designer), Andrew George (choreographer), Colm Seery (revival choreographer)

K. Wang, L. Richardson (© Betina Skovbro)

Sir David McVicar’s production of La Traviata, originally created for Scottish Opera and last presented by Welsh National Opera in 2012, presents a remarkably handsome stage picture with fine attention to pertinent dramatic detail.

The opening act takes us right into a period picture that the young Renoir might have painted. The one drawback of the dark coloration of the unit set means there is no atmospheric contrast for the country house setting of Act II, but the third and fourth acts return to fully appropriate settings. There is some fine chiaroscuro lighting, especially in the final act where shadows cast by the rumpled bedsheets bespeaks Violetta’s agony.

If one phrase stands out to describe conductor James Southall’s approach it is “very careful”. This has a positive side in that many details were given nice attention (this plays out dramatically as well as musically). While there was no sense of “business as usual” I suspect a greater sense of freedom and spontaneity will emerge as the lengthy run progresses.

Linda Richardson has some off-pitch moments in the more fiendish parts of Act I, and her Alfredo, Kan Wang, was overpowered by the orchestra at a couple of instances, but they both have an ardent way with their roles, and everything comes together wonderfully in final act. Roland Wood is in terrific voice throughout. He doesn’t go out of his way to emphasize the man’s villainy (no snarl, for example), but straightforwardly presents that man’s implacability. Subtle but effective.

All in all a very satisfying production despite a few imperfections, giving full evidence as to why La Traviata continues to be the most popular opera of the day.

Michael Johnson



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