Verdi’s shimmering strings to die for: La Traviata at the Royal Opera House
17 January, 2019 — By Sebastian Taylor
Ermonela Jaho and Charles Castronovo in La Traviata at the Royal Opera House. Photo: © ROH/Catherine Ashmore
IT’S been my good fortune to have enjoyed three productions of Verdi’s La Traviata in recent months.
First, in the autumn, there was the King’s Head Theatre’s new version where Violetta is a pole-dancer in a sleazy gentleman’s club in modern-day Bristol. It was sung in a new English version by Becca Marriott who also took the title role, singing excellently in the pub-theatre staging. Adventurous, certainly, demonstrating that Traviata doesn’t have to be always performed in the traditional way.
Then, in December, it was the MetLive screening, with Diana Damrau singing the title role in a new Richard Eyre staging. As to be expected with the Met, it was a sumptuous production with singing to match, Damrau delivering a fantastic Violetta with exquisite phrasing. But the great drawback of opera screenings is that your attention focuses on the singing, the orchestral contribution tending to become background music. You just don’t get the shimmering strings in Violetta’s great death sequence in the last act.
And this week has seen the opening of the Royal Opera House’s revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 staging of La Traviata with Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho singing the title role extraordinarily well. She gets strong support from American tenor Charles Castronovo as her lover Alfredo Germont and from Russian bass Igor Golovatenko as his father.
Throughout all, the orchestral underpinnings are to the forefront, contributing equally to Verdi’s music along with the singers which you didn’t get with the MetLive screening.
There’s just nothing in all music that can beat those last-act shimmering strings.
• Verdi’s La Traviata is at the Royal Opera House, Bow Street, WC2, at 7pm on January 21, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30, 31; and at 12 noon on January 26. 020 7304 4000, roh.org.uk