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December 2003
La Traviata (Verdi) - Glyndebourne on Tour - The New Theatre
La Traviata
La Traviata
Simon Tavener reviews the Verdi at The New Theatre.
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By Simon Tavener

It seems churlish to be too critical of a production of an opera that attracted a capacity audience who demanded a large number of curtain calls from the leading players. La traviata is a perennial favourite and deservedly so - it is packed with stirring melodies, memorable characters and a heart-breaking storyline.

Why, you may ask, was I left somewhat cold by the experience?

The sets and costumes were all sumptuous, perfect for the period. The orchestra were in superb form - delicate and chamber-like at times and, at others, filling the theatre with power and emotion.

The chorus demonstrated their usual flair, control and character - as it to be expected by Glyndebourne. The minor roles were taken appropriately - never attempting to steal the scenes.

The two leading men were in very strong form. Edgaras Montvidas, as Alfredo, has a very honeyed tenor sound. He was able to rise to the climaxes without distorting his sound and created the right blend of ardent romanticism and youthful arrogance. David Kempster as Germont was outstanding vocally. He took time to reach his prime - but once there, he dominated his scenes with an even, rich, warm tone that was totally right for the role.

Any production of La traviata, hangs on the performance of the Violetta. There is no doubt that Majella Cullagh has the voice to tackle this challenging role. She has the coloratura for the first Act, the lyricism for the second and the drama for the third.

My concern is that her acting did not always match her vocal presence. For example she spent the first act standing at the front of the stage, her body slightly angled to the audience, looking coquettishly out at the audience. This is a very old fashioned way of performing in these more naturalistic times.

However it did not detract from her achievement - it was an outstanding feat of singing.

Given the number of people who left the theatre dabbing away genuine tears, I am certain that Verdi was very well served by this traditional production. And who am I to go against that?

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