Wednesday, 30 November 2011

La Traviata, Royal Opera House - unusual, different

I never thought I'd need to say it, but get to this current run of Verdi La Traviata at the Royal Opera House. Outstanding singing - the best all year. Even more interesting, it's different because Piotr Beczala's Alfredo is so strongly charactrized that for a change, Alfredo is the story. Usually the focus is on Violetta, and often on Germont, so Alfredos get taken by relative lightweights, good on charm but without depth. Beczala on the other hand is one of the most experienced Alfredos around, so the subtle change in balance brings insight. That's why this La Traviata is unique, even though we think we know the opera well.

Who is Alfredo, really? Why has he chosen an unsuitable woman in the first place? Why does he have the strength of character to elope with her and stand up to his father, and defy social convention? As Beczala says in this interview in Opera Today, Alfredo is struggling to make his own way in life, because young people need to rebel to find themselves. But Alfredo is a lot like his father. Both are strong-willed personalities, so sure of themselves they're blind to other people's feelings. Both have tempers. Yet, ultimately both are noble spirits who can change when they learn from their mistakes. So Beczala's interpretation is very deep indeed. And his singing's divine - the high "Lavero!" at the end of the cabaletta rings out with a flourish, totally confident. Read the interview also to see what inspires and motivates Beczala. I've loved his work since his early days with Zurich Opera, and he's developed so well.

Here is a more comprehensive review and fuller still the one which will appear in Opera Today. My way of assessing a performance comes from analysing how and why it expresses an opera. I love this Richard Eyre production because this set silent and very perceptive comment on the story. But you have to be alert to pick up the signals. No matter how many times you've been to this La Traviata, you'll get a lot more from this run than you'd expect !

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