The performance of “La traviata” while booking tickets for Munich opera festival was not an intentional choice – my prime target was another Verdi gem – “Les Vêpres siciliennes” on Sunday, and as interim event on Saturday I put it in the booking. Somehow I did not pay too much attention on the planned cast, but when tickets arrived, the prospect of seeing Diana Damrau as Violetta was pleasant surprise – a few years ago, at the start of my opera travelling I have seen her in this role at the Royal Opera House. It was unforgettable performance, and as turned out tonight, there was another one to remember for a long time.
The stellar cast with Damrau, Castronovo and Piazzola promised an evening of great musical enjoyment. They collectively overexceeded expectations – the audience of fully sold out Nationaltheater went into long, standing ovation for at least 15 minutes, with repeated curtain calls of the cast. Such uniform excitement and praise from ther audience in Munich I have seen maybe twice over last 5 years of frequent visits to this outstanding opera house.
Production is in repertoire of BSO since 1993, nevertheless it still looks contemporary and does not show signs of aging. Stage sets were intentionally minimalistic, some accents and colours used to create the mood of the scene, mostly black – red-white, also green in gambling scene and sun-kissed autumn leaves colored the country scene. There are well designed costumes blending into the colour coding, while the set itself is almost bare, each scene carries some symbolic prop to call an association (candelabre, gambling tables, swing). Smart details used by stage director – like a magician showing card tricks at the party or introducing mute Alfredo’s sister in Act 2 to personalise Violetta’s sacrifice.
Diana Damrau has made Violetta Valery as one of her signature roles – and not only she excels at impeccable vocal interpretation, she lives through her protagonist’s suffering and happiness, and finds hundreds of colours in her voice to captivate the audience and make us to believe. What I have always admired is the ease of producing sound, especially high notes – they come across unbelievably natural.
I have seeen Charles Castronovo as Alfredo for the second time – the previous one just six month ago in Paris with Marina Rebeka. Tonight the major difference was almost palpable stage chemistry between two main protagonists, they were so convincing together, and looked like a dream casting also visually.
Castronovo has extraordinary, beautiful voice with very special timbre, and he delivers his part so flawless – like he would just speak to us in his natural voice. No strain, no push, no shouting – secure, confident and very nuanced, intelligent portrayal of young, passionate and love-sick Alfredo.
Simone Piazzola was my discovery of the night – as Giorgio Germont at the entrance he did not seem imposing or threatening, and his first vocal lines were not conveying his capabilities. Just in a few moments into the scene we saw gradual development both of the character as well as its interpreter. At the end of the scene most of the audience felt fully captivated by the agreeement concluded between Violetta and Germont – dominant, chauvinistic, arrogant man and tender loving father of his both children. Piazzola has rich, juicy baritone capable of filling audience as well as their hearts- and the audience demonstrated their appreciation with loud cheers, feet-clapping and uniform applause at repeated curtain calls.
Chorus in Munich is always outstanding, and tonight they were creating important collective character that gave strong background to the drama unfolding on the proscenium.
Asher Fisch has done better than expected since he is not on my favorite conductor’s list, and the orchestra was superb at all the notes Verdi intended them to play.
Another memorable evening in Munich – a lot of reasons to come back frequently..
Giuseppe Verdi. La traviata
Performance on July 28th, 2018
Violetta Valéry Diana Damrau
Flora Bervoix Rachael Wilson
Annina Alyona Abramowa
Alfredo Germont Charles Castronovo
Giorgio Germont Simone Piazzola
Gaston Matthew Grills
Baron Douphol Christian Rieger
Marquis d’Obigny Andrea Borghini
Doktor Grenvil Kristof Klorek
Giuseppe Long Long
Ein Diener Floras Boris Prýgl
Ein Gärtner Oleg Davydov
Conductor Asher Fisch
Director Günter Krämer
Stage Andreas Reinhardt
Costumes Carlo Diappi
Light Wolfgang Göbbel
Chorus Sören Eckhoff