Review: La Traviata, Theatre Royal, Norwich

La Traviata - Alfredo and Violetta played by Maria Tonina and Ruslan Zinevych. Photo: Tas Kyprianou

La Traviata - Alfredo and Violetta played by Maria Tonina and Ruslan Zinevych. Photo: Tas Kyprianou - Credit: Archant

A traditional staging of Verdi's La Traviata hits the right notes for Christopher Smith.

At the Theatre Royal, Norwich, Ellen Kent's production of La Traviata for Opera & Ballet International brings Verdi's best-loved masterpiece to pulsating life by respecting traditional values. With its bold reflections of its day it struck home at the time of its premiere in 1853, and its development of human relationships still has tragic intensity when presented in its original contextof the brilliant, but brittle society of Paris in the middle of the 19th century.

Alyona Kistenyova is a fine Violetta, tall and elegant in her fine gown and clearly the leading figure at the party in which we first see her. She sings her soaring melodies with ease as well as passion, convincingly managing the contrast between her confident outward persona and the portrayal of her inner weakness as illness tightens its grip on her while still allowing her to show her old style just momentarily.

As her lover, Vitalii Liskovetskyi, though a tenor of considerable merit, appears rather stiff. His role is one where more flexibility, more youthfulness and more spontaneity would have been welcome, and an effort might have been to make him look more healthy, particularly in Act 2 when he is enjoying country life.

Iurie Gisca takes the role of Giorgio. A baritone of considerable power and dark tone, which on occasion could have been more varied, he is impressive as the stern father, though - or perhaps some would say, because - somewhat limited in his range of gestures.

In evening clothes and ball gowns the chorus enters readily into the spirit of the party scenes, putting vigour into their dancing and calling for refills as to the manner born. The colourful bullfighting episode is very efficiently handled with real imagination.

Under Vasyl Vasylenko the National Ukrainian Orchestra makes its essential contribution from start to finish. The rhythms of the dances are contrasted with the touching elegiac moment when a plaintive oboe accompanies Violetta she lies dying. Verdi's trademark pulsations have their natural place in Alfredo's serenade. They make even more impact, often at less expected moments when adding a vital throb to the music.

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