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VERDI La traviata at Deutsche Oper Berlin, 09.11. 2006 (GF)

 

Directed by Götz Friedrich

Sets by Frank Philipp Schlössmann

Costumes by Klaus Bruns

Light design by Ulrich Niepel

 

Cast:

Violetta Valery – Andrea Rost

Alfredo Germont – Roberto Aronica

Giorgio Germont – Roberto Frontali

Flora Bervoix – Sarah van der Kemp

Annina – Andion Fernandez

Gaston – Jörg Schörner

Baron Douphol – Lenus Carlson

Marquis d’Obigny – Harold Wilson

Doctor Grenvil – Ante Jerkunica

Giuseppe – Paul Kaufmann

A messenger – Hyung-Wook Lee

 

Chorus and Orchestra of Deutsche Oper Berlin/Yves Abel


 


Götz Friedrich’s La traviata was premiered on
20 November 1999 and the performance I saw was the 60th of this production. Things may have happened along the way but it still feels fresh and, as always with Friedrich productions, full of insights and observations.

 

The basic setting is a large room with high doors on all the walls, doors that are opened or closed for specific purposes and through which important background acting is shown. During the prelude to the first act Violetta, dressed in white, is lying on a white bed centre stage and one immediately understands that this is her deathbed. She is gradually more and more spotlit and when the party music for act one begins she rises and gets dressed by Annina in a red robe, the bed is transformed into a canapé and the guests enter. It is hard to decide in what decade Friedrich has placed the action but it could well be mid-20th century. The bed – in various shapes – is omni-present during the whole opera and at the end of the big party scene at Flora’s, after Violetta has been humiliated by Alfredo, she removes the red cover from the – then – sofa and the white bed is there as a preparation for the last act when it is again centre stage. Red is turned white, life is turned death.

 

 

In the second act when Giorgio Germont makes his entrance he is first seen through one of the back doors together with his daughter, whose existence and coming marriage is the main reason for Germont’s wish to make Violetta repudiate Alfredo. During the whole scene, so central to this opera, she is seen time and again walking nervously back and forth and occasionally looking in through the half open doors. Violetta, in the first act dressed in red, the colour of life and – possibly – sin, in the second act wears a domestic bleak-yellow dress while in the Flora scene she is innocently white and her hair strictly tight-fitting. In the last act the off stage chorus, merrily celebrating the carnival, is introduced by colourful fireworks and three gigantic figures, in carnival dress but with death’s heads, appearing through the open doors render the scene a nightmarish presage of death.

 

The whole production – with the interval between the two scenes of act two, implying that the second half starts with the party at Flora’s – has you completely engrossed from beginning to end and the musical side doesn’t let things down. At the centre of the proceedings is of course Violetta, endearingly acted and sung by Andrea Rost. She is by some distance the most beautiful Violetta I have seen and she perfectly illustrates the different phases of the poor demi-monde’s decline. Her basically very appealing voice has a quick flicker that can sometimes be a little too prominent but especially in this role it also gives a sense of vulnerability. This vibrato has widened a mite since I first heard her, in the beginning of her career, as Lucia in Vienna in 1995, but primarily it is the same lovely voice today, with some added power that makes her fully capable to handle the second act spinto singing. Interestingly her voice becomes more straight here and even though she will never be a Tebaldi she seems to have the potential to move towards heavier parts. As her suitor Alfredo, Roberto Aronica impresses more through his dramatic spinto singing than lyrical warmth, which should also be part of Alfredo’s armoury and which his former teacher Carlo Bergonzi has shown so well on his two recordings of this opera. Aronica is however an insightful and sensitive singer and he blends well with Ms Rost in their duets. One of the vocal high-spots in this performance is his ardent account of the second act cabaletta, a number that is often cut at performances which is a pity, since it is a marvellous piece for a good tenor. Giorgio Germont also has his cabaletta included in this very full version of the opera. This is however much less remarkable as music but it has its function within the dramatic context and Roberto Frontali sings it with the required power. Power is what first and foremost characterises Frontali’s interpretation of the role. He makes Germont a stiff and stern person and even though he warms through the long second act duet scene he is still stiff as a poker, no doubt according to Friedrich’s wishes. In the Provence aria he is the caring father and sings with lyrical beauty and all through his singing is most impressive.

 

In the minor parts Sarah van der Kamp is an attractive Flora with great stage presence and the experienced Lenus Carlson creates an authoritative Baron Douphol.

 

Yves Abel leads a well paced performance and the chorus and the extras act convincingly in the two party scenes where especially the Flora scene is full of life and entertaining gags.

 

All in all then a La traviata that will be long remembered for the wide ranging direction and excellent singing and acting from all involved.

 



Göran Forsling

 


Pictures © Bernd Uhlig

 



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)