The Stage, 16 January 2008
George Hall
Verdi: La traviata, Royal Opera House, 14 January 2008
La Traviata
A three-star line-up leads the first of two casts in the Royal Opera’s current revival of Verdi’s popular classic.
One of the most feted singers of today, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko looks a dream as the doomed courtesan and her voice is surpassingly lovely, but she’s occasionally careless about singing the precise notes Verdi wrote - there’s a tendency to cut difficult corners. She’s also not yet giving us a view of her character from inside and rarely touches the heart.

Which her colleague, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, regularly does with his gauche, impetuous young lover Alfredo. Kaufmann shows the odd sign of a cold - he coughs more than consumptive Violetta - but despite that his singing is invariably poised and elegant. This is another outstanding performance from the finest German lyric tenor in decades.

Best of all is the deeply considered and magnificently sung Germont of Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, now in his absolute vocal prime and giving a dramatic reading which exposes the uncomfortable fact that Germont’s appeal to Violetta is harsh but not unrealistic.

The smaller roles are decently done, with Sarah Pring making more of Violetta’s maid Annina than usual, without pushing herself unduly into the limelight. Patrick Young has done a good job in giving Richard Eyre’s 1994 staging solid credibility, but the sets, as before, are less than distinguished. Solid conducting too from Maurizio Benini, which is on the right side of routine.

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