BWW Review: LA TRAVIATA at Deutsche Oper Berlin - A woefully underrehearsed performance with a runaway orchestra

BWW Review: LA TRAVIATA at Deutsche Oper Berlin - A woefully underrehearsed performance with a runaway orchestraDeutsche Oper Berlin's Verdi Festival 2018 took a very inauspicious turn with last night's woefully underrehearsed performance of LA TRAVIATA. Within the first 8 bars of the Prelude, I knew we were in trouble. Conductor Carlo Montanaro, praised as a "Verdi Specialist" in the press materials provided for this performance, has conducted Verdi operas all over the world. Perhaps he had an off night. Perhaps he was protesting the painfully obvious dearth of rehearsal time, but Mr. Montanara, conducted LA TRAVIATA at a speed that only the Road Runner could love. The Prelude, which Verdi gave the tempo marking of "Adagio" (slowly) was played at "Allegro" (cheerful) if not faster. There was a complete lack of rubato or phrasing. The longing and drama in the music were completely missing. By the time we reached the first scene, instead of "Allegro brilliantissimo e molto vivace" (cheerfully brilliant and very lively) the orchestra was playing at "Prestissimo" (very quickly). The opening chorus was unintelligible and both the singers onstage and the audience were nervous due to the extreme tempos. There was a constant coordination problem between the stage and orchestra. Neither the singers nor the audience could ever relax and enjoy the music.

Given the runaway orchestra, it is nearly impossible to give an informed opinion about the performances of the singers as they were fighting the orchestra from the very first measure. Kristina Mkhitaryan as Violetta had all the required notes but was often seen "conducting" with her body language, trying to communicate with her (obviously) oblivious conductor. As Alfredo Germont, Attilio Glaser sang with a very thick middle register that didn't allow his high notes to bloom at all. Gabriele Viviani as Giorgio Germont was pushing his quite lovely baritone.

In fairness to the performers, I will refrain from further commentary on their performances because what was presented on the stage of the Deutsche Opera had very little to do with Verdi and almost nothing to do with LA TRAVIATA. The performers were treading water, nothing more.

If an opera house the caliber of the Deutsche Oper Berlin is planning a festival to honor a great composer, they must plan enough rehearsal time to do that composer's music justice. The performance offered onstage last night in Berlin was unworthy of Maestro Verdi and the Deutsche Oper's audience. "Eine Schande" (a disgrace) is the perfect expression in German for last night's performance.

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