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BWW Reviews: LA TRAVIATA Is a Heartrending Tale of Doomed Love, Duty, and Honour

Reviewed Saturday 3rd May 2014

Guiseppe Verdi's three act opera, La Traviata (The Woman Led Astray) of 1853, originally titled Violetta, based on the novel La dame aux Camélias of 1852 by Alexander Dumas, fils, opens the season for the State Opera of South Australia. This is a co-production between State Opera SA, OperaQ and New Zealand Opera in association with the Adelaide Festival Centre.

The courtesan, Violetta Valéry, throws a party and Gastone tells her that his friend, Alfredo Germont, is in love with her and, when she questions him, Alfredo admits it is true. She has been ill and he has been close to her the whole time. She eventually abandons her current supporter ,Barone Douphol, for Alfredo and we find them three months later, living together. Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont, arrives and asks her to break up with Alfredo as their relationship is preventing the marriage of Alfredo's sister. She leaves and goes to her friend Flora Bervoix's party and leaves a letter for Alfredo. He follows and finds her with the Barone again. She is ill, though, and soon she is dying from consumption, tuberculosis, with very little time left. Alfredo arrives just in time and they declare their love once more before she dies.

The orchestra, under conductor, Nicholas Carter, gives a superbly controlled and emotional depth to the overture as Violetta rises from the ground to face her earlier self, resplendent in a red gown. A chandelier sits on the ground nearby. Director, Kate Cherry, is giving us a glimpse of the future. The future Violetta looks at her past self through the two glass panelled walls of a cube to one side of the stage; the opposite two walls are missing. As she leaves, the cube rotates and the open sides face us, with Violetta then joined by the chorus and most of the principals for her party. The fallen chandelier, on the other side of the stage, rises, and others descend to indicate a lavish ballroom. Christina Smith is responsible for both the set and costumes, which are mostly in black and white with a few touches of silver, apart from those worn by Violetta and a couple of others. Matt Scott's very varied lighting does the rest, as this basic set is used for all of the locations.

Having set the benchmark for the quality of the music in their playing of the Overture, The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra continues to play like a dream for the rest of the performance, Carter establishing carefully considered balances between sections and drawing out all of the beauty of Verdi's score. The State Opera Chorus, under their Chorus Master, CEO of State Opera, and the company's Artistic Director, Timothy Sexton, has clearly been well rehearsed, an excellent clarity of singing and clear harmonies showing the work that had been put in during rehearsals.

The role of Violetta Valéry is sung by Russian trained soprano, Elvira Fatykhova, who has become an overnight sensation as far as the Adelaide audience was concerned, taking her to their hearts for the wonderful performance in this opera. She takes her voice from a more gentle sound at the beginning, indicating Violetta's recent illness, becoming stronger as she recovers her verve and thirst for a life of gaiety, changing again when she discovers true love, and softening once more as she approaches her final moments. This excellent control is coupled with a great purity of tone that thrilled the audience.

Adelaide audiences are always happy to see tenor, Aldo Di Toro, who has become a firm favourite, and he is back here once again to sing the role of Alfredo Germont. He is an ideal choice as his voice and Fatykhova's match so well in their duets, blending marvellously and allowing the harmonies to be heard in all their beauty. As he sings we can hear the various emotions in his voice, from the excitement of having his love returned by Violetta, to the anger when he thinks that she has spurned him, to the anguish and regret at her death

Giorgio Germont is sung by Italian baritone, Mario Bellanova, who currently lives in Adelaide, and who also proved to be a big hit with the audience in this, his debut with the company. His rich and full voice is eminently suited to the roles of the demanding father, concerned with keeping up appearances and avoiding any possibility of scandal touching him or his family. He is particularly convincing when he browbeats Violetta and plays the guilt card, leaving her with no alternative than to do his bidding, contrasting this nicely against his reaction at the end when he realises fully what he has done to both Violetta and Alfredo.

Violetta's friend and party companion, Flora Bervoix, is sung by Deborah Caddy, Barone Douphol by Jeremy Tatchell, Alfredo's good friend, Gastone, by Adam Goodburn, Violetta's faithful maid, Annina, by Naomi Hede, her physician, Dottore Grenvil, by Thomas Millhouse, and the Marchese d'Obigny by Robert England. Although these are smaller roles there has been no skimping on quality, all of these sensational singers having played far larger roles in past productions, and this has ensured a consistently high level of performance throughout the production. There is, of course, considerable dancing to be done at parties, and Aidan Kane Munn has choreographed the production with great style, as well as taking a featured solo.

The whole thing adds up to a most engaging and moving evening, filled with memorable music and unforgettable performances. With only three more performances of this operatic masterwork, it is essential to waste no time in booking tickets. This is not to be missed.

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From This Author - Barry Lenny