BWW REVIEW: Verdi's Tragic Love Story Of The Fallen Woman, LA TRAVIATA Returns To Sydney Opera House
Thursday 9th February 2017, 7:30pm, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Elijah Moshinsky's (Director) staging of Giuseppe Verdi's LA TRAVIATA returns to Sydney Opera House, this time under the eye of Revival Director Hugh Halliday. The opulent, traditional opera styling and the classic opera story of a doomed love story, ending with a death from an incurable disease is a perfect selection for those new to opera or visitors to Sydney wanting to experience the Sydney Opera House and Opera Australia's work.
Moshinsky's staging returns the design of LA TRAVIATA back to the 19th Century, where Verdi originally intended the story to unfold. Michal Yeargan's set and Peter J Hall's costumes draw on the society captured in Impressionist paintings of Renoir, Seurat and other artists of the era. Hall captures the extravagance of the 19th Century where a courtesan has the means to host a party in her apartments, women are clothed corseted tops and bustled skirts made of opulent fabrics and the men have a formality of three piece suits and cravats secured with tie pins. Yeargan's three sets capture the detail of Violetta's (Ermonela Jaho) Parisian rooms, filled with paintings, gold leaf and exquisite furniture; the influence of the exotic Morocco on Flora's (Dominica Matthews) home with mosaics and lanterns in sumptuous colours; and the grand simplicity of the courtyard of Violetta and Alfedo's (Ho-Yoon Chung) rural home.
Conductor Renato Palumbo returns to lead the Opera Australia Orchestra but is more subdued this time around compared to his 2015 energetic performance. This restraint is probably influenced by the two leads who both appear to require more pointed direction than in previous performances. Whilst the 2015 performance saw Rame Lahaj as Alfredo also loose connection with his Violetta, Lorina Gore, due to his following the conductor, both Jaho and Chung maintain a close eye on Palumbo to the point of destroying their characters' connection and intimacy particularly in what should be poignant moments in the last act, indicating a possible lack of rehearsal time with the visiting performers. It is unclear whether Halliday, Palumbo or the performers themselves are responsible for the mood shift from the 2015 production to this current interpretation of Moshinsky's vision. Along with the disconnect between Violetta and Alfredo, which lacks honesty and sensitivity in their love, Jaho expresses Violetta with an anger towards everything with unvarying presentation, losing the sympathy that Lorina Gore garnered for her Violetta in 2015.
Whilst the role of Violetta is soprano, Jaho focuses on the lower range of the work which, along with conveying the previously mentioned anger, also removes the innocence, regret and reform that the courtesan has supposed to have undergone when falling in love with Alfredo. When she does transition to her head voice, the moves are obvious and vocals become thin, in stark contrast to her lower strength. There is also a lack of nuance and subtlety and understanding of the reason for the original director's choices that Australian opera audiences had come to expect from Opera Australia, reverting to the overplayed clunky acting reminiscent of old world opera.