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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    La Traviata at the Zurich Opera House

    La Traviata, opera in three acts, sung in Italian, with German and English surtitles
    Music by Giuseppe Verdi
    Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on La Dame aux Camélias (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The opera was originally titled Violetta, after the main character.
    Premiered on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.

    This article is part of the Opera Lively coverage of opera houses in the German-speaking area of Central Europe in the Summer of 2018 - see the links to numerous other reviews, interviews, pictorial blogs, and other articles related to this coverage, by clicking [here]

    This review is of the performance on July 6, 2018, attended in person.

    This is a revival production of Opernhaus Zürich. For more information, tickets, and other dates in this run, click [here].
    Scroll down for production pictures, after the review.

    Philharmonia Zürich conducted by Fabio Luisi
    Chor der Oper Zürich, Chorus Master Janko Kastelic

    Producer - David Hermann
    Stage and costume designer - Christof Hetzer
    Lighting designer - Franck Evin
    Video designer - Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck
    Dramaturgy - Beate Breidenbach

    Cast

    Violetta Valéry - Opera Lively interviewee Ailyn Perez
    Alfredo Germont - Benjamin Bernheim
    Giorgio Germont - Quinn Kelsey
    Flora Bervoix - Karina Demurova
    Annina - Adriana Gonzalez
    Gastone - Omer Kobiljak
    Baron Douphol - Cheyne Davidson
    Marquis D'Obigny - Valeriy Murga
    Doktor Grenvil - Ildo Song
    Giuseppe - Thobela Ntshanyana
    Commissionario - Alexander Kiechle

    ------------

    “Amore e morte” – love and death – was the originally intended title of Verdi’s La traviata. It is indeed these two poles between which Violetta’s tragic story unfolds: beautiful, clever and universally desired, but mortally ill, she lives as a courtesan for the thrill of the moment. She does not permit herself real emotions and believes that great love is a utopian ideal. Until, one day, she encounters Alfredo: with him she wants to start a new life, far away from hedonistic Parisian society. However, Violetta’s past catches up to her, and the love for which she yearns remains a dream, because she is doomed to failure within the value system of society. Only the transcendent power of Verdi’s music points to a better, more human life beyond the grave.

    In his production, the German director David Hermann recounts the story of the demise of the courtesan as a portrait study of a modern-day high-class escort who is crushed by the mechanisms of today’s competitive, performance-oriented society. The cold, bleak stage consists of black leather seating and podiums that no longer allow the separation of public and private spheres. With his choice of subject matter, which was shockingly realistic and critical by the standards of his time, Giuseppe Verdi aimed to show a perspective that reflected the present. David Hermann’s production also adopts this approach by discussing today’s hedonistic pursuit of freedom and the obsession with self-optimisation that it entails.

    General Music Director Fabio Luisi will be conducting this revival production. The soprano Ailyn Perez can be heard as Violetta, a role for which she is in worldwide demand and has already sung at Zurich Opera House; the young French tenor Benjamin Bernheim will début as her lover Alfredo. Quinn Kelsey, who sang Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont at the première of this production, will return to Zurich.

    ------------

    Review of the performance:

    ............

    Well, it had to happen at some point. This is the first show in this trip that I didn't like. Day 9, and 9th place if I have to rank all shows up to this point. It is a sharp drop from the nice Carmen of two days ago, and the spectacular Poppea of yesterday.

    First of all, the sets are pretty (you can see the pictures) with the sleek black furniture and ramps, but lack personality and don't add anything to the telling of the opera. Sure, they don't detract from the story either, but I came to expect more from these European houses I'm visiting. B.

    Lighting, nothing special. Blocking, a bit precarious in some of these narrow ramps, I was half fearing that a singer would fall. Costumes, all contemporary, would have been OK if not for the very unflattering gown that they imposed on poor Ailyn Perez in the first act; simply awful. Flora was better dressed. Overall, B.

    Acting, not particularly convincing. Stage direction, no clear concept; sure, in this production the other characters seem to treat Violetta more harshly - but is that it? Is this the point the director is trying to make? So, he chooses to make the point by the party goers throwing food at Violetta (while the libretto has them happily thanking her for the dinner) while looking at her contemptuously. I mean, really? How likely was this to happen, in this demi-monde environment in Paris? People leave a dinner party - and the people here are made of Violetta's escort girl colleagues who had no reason to treat her like this, and the aristocratic gentlemen that could afford these expensive prostitutes - and they throw food at the host?? Huh, nope. This is what happens when directors don't really immerse themselves in the context of a high-quality libretto like Piave's, and don't read the Alexandre Dumas, fils, original source. B-.

    Conducting, orchestral playing - I have never been too fond of Fabio Luisi, and my opinion hasn't changed tonight. A very slow overture, and some confusing moments synchronizing with the stage, although I think the fault is Ailyn Perez's rather than Luisi's. In any case, he could have corrected these issues beforehand; I can't exempt the conductor from all responsibility. B.

    Singing - that's when things went wrong.

    I don't know what happened to Ailyn tonight. Maybe she was indisposed, although nothing was announced in this sense, but she just wasn't right. I've heard her before and she is usually fine, but not tonight. She seemed distracted, making a number of errors. She wasn't showing a lot of musicality, ending her phrasing abruptly. She went badly off-pitch in "Ah, fors'è lui." In one of the runs in "Sempre libera" she appeared to forget to restart, then had to catch up, singing the line faster. This is part of the problem for Fabio Luisi - she seemed erratic and counting the tempi in her head with little focus. Later she improved, especially when she lowered the dynamics for the more dramatic and poignant parts, getting some better musical phrasing, but overall, atypically of her, it wasn't a good performance. B-.

    Our Alfredo was better than his Violetta but was also not without problems. His timbre of voice is fine and his musicality was more subtle than Ailyn's, but the issue with him is that he put too much volume into his singing. It wasn't necessary, in a small house like the Opernhaus Zürich, and it actually took the beauty out of some passages. And then, he overextended himself, having no gas left in the tank for a high note that ended "De' miei bollenti spiriti": he did sing it, but for a fraction of a second; he couldn't sustain it. Still, he did better than Ailyn. B+. He has potential, but needs to gain a bit more experience in terms of adapting his singing to the size of the house, and in the matter of pacing himself.

    Quinn Kelsey saved the night. He was by miles the best singer. The discerning Zürich public shouted "Bravo!" for him, and for him only, with subdued applause for his colleagues. He was absolutely perfect, and one of the best Giorgio Germonts I've ever seen live on stage. All his second act arias were sung with great musicality, perfect control, solid and beautiful tone, and his "Di Provenza, il mar, il suol" was arguably the best musical moment of the evening. A++.

    Another pretty Russian lady, the newcomer Karina Demurova did well in the small role of Flora; our Annina was nothing special; other comprimarios were decent.

    In summary, it was a disappointing evening, with scores that average to a B. I'd have preferred a recital with Quinn Kelsey.

    Live theater is like this; sometimes things go wrong. It is my last night in Zürich and I will leave the city with fond memories of its opera company. It's not one off-night that will change my impression. So, good bye, Zürich; thanks for the hospitality, and on to Berlin!
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); July 8th, 2018 at 01:21 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Production pictures from a previous run, photo credit T+T Fotografie / Toni Suter + Tanja Dorendorf, fair promotional use.

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    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Pictorial blog, Zurich

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    To be continued, in the other two reviews for the Opernhaus Zürich productions.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    This thread has been updated with the review of the performance. Scroll up and consult the second half of the first post.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #5
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    It's too bad that Ailyn Perez was having such an off night. I heard her Violetta several years ago, and she was lovely. It's sad when a singer you know is capable of wonderful things is off form -- and the singer is undoubtedly aware of it as well.

  8. #6
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    I was relieved that you were reviewing a different Alfredo from the one in the pics (Pavol Breslik) because I'm a massive fan of the latter and would be disappointed if he was no good in the flesh.
    Natalie

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