It only occurred to me during my first of two performances of La Traviata at the Teatro La Fenice that I had come to see Verdi's opera in the theatre where it had first been performed on March 6, 1853. Famously, the world premiere wasn't well received by the Venetian public, but ever since it was performed again at another Venetian opera house a year later La Traviata has become one of the most successful pieces ever written. And one of the best, I might add.
After a fire had destroyed the opera house a few years ago the Fenice had been rebuilt as a perfect copy of the old theatre and opened with a new production of La Traviata by Robert Carsen. It has been so successful here that it is now revived every season for a short run of performances.
There are too many great singers associated with La Traviata to name them all, but it is often underestimated what a difference a great conductor can make for the piece. If you listen to Arturo Toscanini, Carlo Maria Giulini (with Maria Callas) or Carlos Kleiber (with Ileana Cotrubas) you will understand what I mean. Myun-Wun Chung led a fluid performance, with great care to the details of Verdi's deceivingly simple, but highly efficient orchestration. I have always felt that it is not only Verdi's late operas that are conductor's pieces, and Chung's interpretation proved my point. On Sunday, the cast fully lived up to what you would expect from a Verdi performance at a major Italian opera house. Ekaterina Sadovnikova's Violetta was convincingly intense and vulnerable, but most of all extremely well sung. I am really looking forward to her debut with the COC. Stefano Secco, an Italian tenor whom we had put on the international map in Paris with roles like Rodolfo (Bohème), Gabriele Adorno (Simon Boccanegra) and Don Carlo, sang an ardent Alfredo with his usual musicality and great care for the text. As Giorgio Germont, Giovanni Meoni gave an extremely nuanced performance, a living example of the great Italian baritone tradition.
Now, I am just about to leave my hotel. This evening I will be back in Toronto.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (4) / permalink
As you can see, the weather is not great (seems to have become a pattern for my visits to Europe), but Venice is still Venice. Once you've escaped the deafening noise of the vaporetto that takes you from the airport to the city the most amazing thing about Venice for me always is the total absence of noise (there are no cars), as if the city were floating on the water, suspended in time.
I am here until Monday morning to hear La Traviata twice in two days with two different casts and also hold auditions. Now, I'm off to my first performance.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (0) / permalink
As part of my ongoing effort to get to know the work of our Canadian peer companies I travelled to Ottawa yesterday afternoon to see Opera Lyra's production of Puccini's Turandot. Sitting in the performance I realized how long it had been since I had last seen the piece, probably the Met's magnificent Zeffirelli production back in 2005. Of all of Puccini's operas, I've always had a weak spot for two: La Bohème and Turandot, mostly because of Luciano Pavarotti and his unbeatable recordings with Mirella Freni, conducted by Herbert von Karajan (Bohème) and Joan Sutherland with Montserrat Caballé, conducted by Zubin Mehta (Turandot). The sheer pleasure of singing in these recordings always takes my breath away and if you don't know them I recommend them highly.
Opera Lyra had been able to hire a very impressive lead couple for their production. Lori Philipps sang a powerful Turandot and Richard Margison a terrific Calaf, with perfect style, great diction and thrilling high notes. I am glad he will be with the COC for Ariadne auf Naxos later this season.
On a different matter, if you're looking for something good to read try to find a copy of Jonathan Frantzen's latest novel Freedom. I've been living with it for a few days now and have increasing difficulties putting it down to do something else or even get some sleep. Exactly what you want from a great book.
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