Daily Mail, 15 January 2008
David Gillard
Verdi: La traviata, Royal Opera House, 14 January 2008
first night review, LA TRAVIATA Royal Opera House
It was this very production that turned the Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu into an overnight sensation and an international star when it was first staged here by the Royal Opera 14 years ago.

And now there is a new star at the bursting heart of Verdi’s tragic romance, a new Violetta for the 21st century - the magnificent Russian soprano Anna Netrebko.

Of course, Ms Netrebko was much hyped as the hottest diva of our day long before she set foot on stage last night.

But her British debut as the consumptive Lady of the Camellias confirms her as a stunningly individual and charismatic talent.

It’s not often that the Violetta gets a tumultuous ovation and a curtain call after Act One. But that happened last night.

It helps, of course, if you look the part. And Ms Netrebko certainly does, bringing glamour and sensuality to the so-called ‘fallen woman’ of the title.

Her Violetta is a glittering society hostess, a graceful courtesan who fits easily into the champagne world of the demimonde and whose sexual favours will never be cheaply bought.

But there is an innocence, girlishness and vulnerability in her superbly acted performance that adds an extra dimension to a character often sentimentally portrayed as a tart with a heart, an upper class whore with a conscience and a taste for redemption. Ms Netrebko - like Greta Garbo in the greatest of all the ‘Traviata’ movies, Camille - is the quintessence of the beautiful, tragic heroine. She pins you to your seat.

And she sings as she acts, with heartbreaking Intensity, her lustrous lyric soprano soaring effortlessly through Verdi’s crippling coloratura.

There is strength in depth in this cast too — an eloquent Alfredo from Jonas Kaufmann, a grave, superbly sung Germont from Dmitri Hvorostovsky and some ravishing playing under conductor Maurizio Benini - while Richard Eyre’s stylish, sumptuous production carries its age lightly.

But this was the night the diva lived up to her hype. From the first moment she swirls on in her ballooning ballgown to the final swoon of her dying fall, this is every inch a star performance.

And she is not afraid to display a racking cough.

  www.jkaufmann.info back top