The Conductor. Normally the closing part of a review, but in this case there is every reason to start with her. For rarely have we heard a Verdi opera conducted so finely as by Speranza Scappucci. She breathes Verdi. Verdi is in every fiber of her being, in her blood. From the first to the last note, it was a great pleasure to see and hear her work on La Traviata. Whereas with many a conductor we often thought “why this way?”, Sperucci’s interpretation was a feast of recognition, confirming that “yes, this is how it should be done!” Down to the last detail, whether it was the tempi, the rhythm or the dynamics. The overture was a masterpiece in itself, in which the well-known pitfalls of tempo and volume were not only avoided but also transformed into miniatures of pure italianità
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Violetta Valery : Patrizia CIOFI; Alfredo Germont : Dmitry KORCHAK; Giorgio Germont : Giovanni MEONI; Flora Bervoix : Caroline de MAHIEU; Gastone de Letorières : Pierre DERHET; Barone Douphol : Roger JOAKIM; Marchese d’Obigny : Samuel NAMOTTE; Annina : Julie BAILLY; Dottore Grenvil : Alexei GORBATCHEV; Giuseppe : Marcel ARPOTS; Il commissionario : Marc TISSONS; Il Servo : Bernard Aty MONGA NGOY; Orchestre et Chœurs de l’Opéra Royal de Wallonie – Liège; Direction musicale : Speranza SCAPPUCCI; Mise en espace : Gianni SANTUCCI.
Music: *4,5* Direction: *5*
La Traviata in Liege. Traviatissima!
The late lamented Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera, who died on February the 8th, directed a new production of La Traviata in 2009. Director Gianni Santucci, with obvious reverence for Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera’s direction, now turned it, together with cast and orchestra, into a magnificent corona-proof performance (stream). Orchestra on stage, the beautifully lit spectacle in the auditorium, beautiful costumes… No quirks, but pure, “old-fashioned”, high-quality opera. No quatsch about whether or not it’s “woke”, no introductory poem by a Spoken Word Artist, no embarrassing digital “discussions” with the audience sitting at home in front of their computers. Ordinary (but unfortunately not so ordinary anymore): Verdi. Not a “traditional performance”, because that’s a misleading term for and from People of Today and their egomaniacal opinion makers, but simply a Traviata by Verdi. And an exceptionally good one as well.
The question of whether Violetta is a signature role of Patrizia Ciofi is like asking whether Chaplin ever played the role of the Little Tramp. Ciofi is now well over 50 and the coloratura in the first act are no longer as tinkling as they used to be… but she is more Violetta – in word, gesture, voice, empathy – than Violetta herself, so to speak. A great pleasure, almost nostalgic. “Her” Alfredo was interpreted by Dmitry Korchak, who could be heard two years ago in Semiramide at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. He is a straightforward tenor, and this in the best sense of the word, i.e. no scolding or hyper-sentimentality, but beautifully differentiated and sincerely moving.
Paradoxically, we found his first notes of “Un di felice” to be a bit of a lament, but that was the only blemish of which, thanks to a squirt of OxiClean, every trace had completely disappeared. An absolute highlight was his “Dei miei bollenti spiriti,” sung so brilliantly and knowingly. We use the word “knowingly” here, thinking back to Willy Decker’s shabby production in which the aria “Dei miei bollenti spiriti” was met with total bewilderment. You remember, the Traviata with The Clock, so that we, the simple-minded, know that Time Passes Relentlessly. During his aria “Dei mei bollenti spiriti” Alfredo is alone; the aria has an exuberant as well as introspective character and is about the new life he is facing with his beloved Violetta and about the old life they are both leaving behind. In the Decker production, Violetta and Alfredo tumble over each other on the sofa. Silly and annoying.
But let us not spoil our mood; let us go back to the Traviata in Liege. We did not discuss Germont (Dad) yet; this role was adequately performed by Giovanni Meoni, he could have suggested some more subcutaneous motivations (whatever they are). Well sung though, but a bit flat.
And then of course there were top hits such as “Addio del passato” (emotional swallowing) and “Parigi o cara” (emotional distress) and Violetta’s Final Words (liquor bottle on the table). All equally excellent.
The remaining roles and the chorus completed one of the finest opera experiences we had in recent years, even as a stream. Our advice: next time a girl scout knocks on your door, instead of buying her stale cookies, buy a few hours of pure opera pleasure for 8 euros instead. Available until April 18! This Traviata is a true tribute to Verdi and to Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera.