BWW Review: Chemistry Galore from Yoncheva and Fabiano in Met's TRAVIATA
Don't ever underestimate the importance of chemistry when it comes to pulling off an opera performance--and there was animal magnetism galore in the Met's revival of its Willy Decker production of Verdi's LA TRAVIATA. From the moment tenor Michael Fabiano came on stage, at Friday's performance of LA TRAVIATA at the Met, everyone perked up--even the evening's Violetta, Sonya Yoncheva, who had already been giving a strong performance as Verdi's "Lost One," suddenly seemed to have a gleam in her eye that wasn't present before.
Yoncheva is a soprano on the rise--though it seems to be taking longer for New York audiences to embrace her than those in London or Paris--and her Violetta is the cream of her roles here. In the past, I had mixed feelings about the Decker production, sets and costumes by Wolfgang Gussman, lighting by Hans Toelstede, with its Ingmar Bergman-esque spectre of death hovering over the action. But I forgot my quibbles once I heard Yoncheva's portrayal two years ago, because she was so powerful in this role. Whether playing the party girl, the smitten lover or the dying tubercular, the Bulgarian soprano has Violetta--and the audience--in the palm of her hand and even when the director has taken away some of the usual props in the Violetta "toolbox." For example, her death scene and the gorgeous aria, "Addio al passato," are done wandering around the stage rather than in bed; in her hands, they still have a devastating effect.
As Alfredo, tenor Fabiano was a more worldly version of a character who is sometimes portrayed as so goo-goo-eyed over Violetta that you can't quite imagine what she sees in him. Here, they are more of a match, particularly in Act II, where they get to frolic around in bedroom of her country place and mistakenly think that their life together will be full-steam-ahead. His full-voiced, amorous portrayal works perfectly in most respects--his aria of happiness with Violetta, "Dei miei bollenti spiriti" was wonderful--though I occasionally wished there were more modulation in his volume. This was a hot-blooded Alfredo: When his father, Giorgio, slapped him, it seemed surprising that he didn't fight back (though it would, of course, have been out of character) and when he lashed out at Violetta, still not understanding why she has thrown him over, he was terrifying as he flung money at her.