The run of consistently excellent productions from the ENO hit a slight bump in the road last week with the opening night of Peter Konwitschny’s La Traviata. Perhaps this more negative reaction is because of the proximity of the opera to the premiere of the outstanding Meistersingers production a few days earlier. The set was very sparse, verging on excessively minimal; a lone chair and some scarlet drapes set the scene for what is usually a lavish and luxurious backdrop appropriate to courtesans and upper class socialites. The chorus, however, was much more engaging. They were busy, buzzing and bustling all over the stage underscoring Konwitschny’s vision of Violetta being the only ‘real person’ and her surrounding company being wired, cavorting ‘city folk’ who are constantly searching for new dramatics. The most creatively choreographed scene was the gambling scene in which the chorus paced back and forth flicking cards in a nonchalant manner – once again reiterating the blasé and indifferent nature of the upper classes of the time. Verdi’s music was as rousing as ever under the baton of Roland Böer with only a few timing snags. The stand out voices were Elizabeth Zharoff, who seemed to come into her own as the opera progressed, and Anthony Michaels- Moore who sang Germont’s role. As with many Traviata performances, the famous ‘Drinking Song’ was performed with great enthusiasm and gusto.
There were moments of awkwardness in the production – most obviously the decision – reminiscent of pantomime – for members of the cast to break the fourth wall by climbing awkwardly over the front row of the audience. As well as this, the translation could have been more artfully done – but perhaps this was just noticeable because of the familiarity of the much-loved Italian libretto.
Though the production was perhaps too modern and slightly undeveloped for such a classic and famously luxurious and musically lush opera, nothing could detract from the beauty of Verdi’s music. Though the ENO have been facing difficulties in recent weeks, their productions are still deserving of the company’s high reputation. La Traviata was less polished than previous productions in recent weeks, but nonetheless is still a showcase of excellent operatic singing talent.
La Traviata continues until 13 March, more information and book here.
Written by Thoroughly Modern Missy, Angelica Bomford.