Not every composer would have attempted ‘the Fallen Woman’ as a subject for a new opera in Venice 1853, but Verdi was of stronger stuff. Carnival season welcomed “the subject of our time” with mixed reviews and certain scandal. However, ‘La Traviata’ soon became one of his most popular works.
Violetta’s shy, besotted admirer is splendidly sung by Leonardo Capalbo (owing to the disposition of Carlos Osuna). A fine tenor with convincing acting skills he wins over the audience and predictably Joyce El-Khoury as Violetta haunted by tuberculosis. A sexy soprano; coquettishly portraying tingling coloratura passages, astronomical high notes with lovely controlled pianissimos both in solo arias and a fine duet with Jason Howard as Alfredo’s disapproving father.
Howard has an unforgiving semi-static role to play, with certain long notes disturbing with a very wide uncompromising vibrato, otherwise very acceptable as the one who changes Violetta’s idyllic life with her lover.
Guest conductor Julia Jones keeps a firm hand on some of Verdi’s more excessive orchestrations. He has quaint ‘tiddly-pom’ jolly underlying rhythms to support the most tragic of scenes onstage; extraordinary to our modern ears, but obviously acceptable for his listeners. Some agreeable orchestral solos seeped through, with gentle lilting accompaniments and for the most part neat orchestral playing.
Some padding is obviously required, but obligatory inclusion of gypsy dancers seemed more like blowsy can-can girls in spite of tambourines. A restless audience spoiled the final heart-rending death scene adding unnecessarily to the dramatic tubercular coughing from stage.