LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 15.5

Help for OPERA-L Archives

OPERA-L Archives

OPERA-L Archives


Next Message | Previous Message
Next in Topic | Previous in Topic
Next by Same Author | Previous by Same Author
Chronologically | Most Recent First
Proportional Font | Monospaced Font


Join or Leave OPERA-L
Reply | Post New Message
Search Archives

Subject: La Traviata in Hamburg, 12-Nov-2010
From: Szabo Katalin <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Szabo Katalin <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 23 Nov 2010 18:20:13 +0100

TEXT/plain (146 lines)

I didn't know that Edita Gruberova's collaboration
with the Hamburgische Staatsoper goes back that long,
but, according to the Traviata playbill noting the anniversary, 
she debuted there exactly forty years before(!), on 12-Nov-1970, 
in the same year when she debuted in the Wiener Staatsoper. 
Her Hamburg debut was in the role of Olympia.

She still goes back to Hamburg every few years, though in 
recent times only in concert performances (Anna Bolena, 
Roberto Devereux, Beatrice di Tenda, Norma), so this 
staged Traviata was an exception. The production is from 1975, 
and she performed in it before. It's a good old traditional staging, 
very true to the libretto (e.g. Alfredo really wears hunting clothes 
and has a gun in his hand at the beginning of Act 2). It also has 
some nice touches, like when Violetta turns her head away from 
Alfredo (she can't bear to face him) when she tells him the lie 
that she loves the Baron ("Ebben l'amo").

I think, fancy modern productions with a lot of "happenings"
are justified, even necessary, when the performers are not top-notch
and the audience's attention should be diverted from this fact.
But here the singers (also in the small roles), as well as chorus & orchestra
were all fine, so the traditional staging did very well.

Despite the traditional staging, the conducting of Simone Young was 
not traditional, and I mean this in the positive sense. It managed 
to elevate the sentimental story into something universal, a story 
about the fragility of human happiness, how it can be destroyed by 
other humans (Germont), stupid conventions, illness etc. 
A story about dying, about not being able to, and yet in some way 
nevertheless being able to fulfil our destiny.
The conducting totally lacked the surface sentimentality, the 
dusty and sticky pathos. Of course this is not the only possible 
approach (I have heard successful lyric-sentimental renderings), 
but it is certainly a valid and modern one. With this approach, 
Violetta is not just a long-dead courtesan of 150-200 years ago 
who is revived for our pleasure for a few hours, and then her 
soul can go back into the cabinet where they store the scores. 
No, she stays with us. And we realize that we are all Violettas, 
to some extent.

An opera performance is a collective "product", and I cannot really 
tell who contributed what, but I suppose that Edita Gruberova also 
had a hand in shaping the performance this way. It was her who 
wanted to do these performances (after letting the role rest for 
9 years), so she surely wanted to "say" something with them. Her 
video from 1992 is already very effective, at least for me. I 
remember feeling nailed to my chair in front of the TV set when I 
saw the last act in the video. But now her live performance in Hamburg 
has had an even greater effect on me.

Simone Young is very supportive of the singers, in her symphonic-like 
conducting the human voice has the role of a very precious solo instrument
whose sound is "caressed" by the orchestra. This is particularly true
for Gruberova, whose voice can always be heard through all the orchestra,
probably at least partly due to her special overtone spectrum. If I had to 
characterize her voice in terms of the sound that she makes, the adjective 
that I'd use would be "luminous".

Young's orchestra is disciplined, rhythmically precise, and 
the string section (so important in Traviata) is particularly strong, 
they can play totally together, as if one big, complex
string instrument was playing. You rarely hear this sort of sound.

To my delight, most of the traditional cuts were opened:
"Il mio rimorso" of Alfredo, as well as Germont's cabaletta. 

Alfredo was Jose Bros, a replacement for the ailing Ramon Vargas
(the previous 2 performances had been sung by another tenor, Stefan Pop).
Among the currently active tenors, he is my favorite, a consummate
belcantist, and I am happy to report that he fared very well as
Alfredo, too. His voice is a good match for Gruberova's in every way,
they perform together frequently. (Recently in Lucrezia Borgia in 
Vienna in October.) However, I don't think that they ever did La Traviata 
together before. I love his stylishness, the sincerity in his portrayals.
The sometimes criticized nasality doesn't bother me, I love his sound as it is.

The Giorgio Germont of Dalibor Jenis was also fine. He is a reliable 
performer, secure in style, good in characterization. This time I did not 
hate Papa Germont as much as I usually do.

Edita Gruberova scored a big success already with her first act aria, 
and from there she went from strength to strength. 
Compared to her previous Traviata performances (which I know only from 
recordings), there was more emphasis on certain low notes now. 
The "Amami Alfredo" outbreak had a lot of power. 

The last act was the best. "Addio del passato" was 2 verses of sheer bliss. 
It was concluded with a messa di voce.

I actually never saw her "die" on stage before. In the performances
of tragic operas that I have seen live with her, Lucia di Lammermoor 
dies offstage, the Tudor (and other) queens and duchesses and the 
druid priestess either proudly march off to their death which happens 
after the curtain has come down, or they collapse in a dead faint.
(I have never seen Manon or I Capuleti e i Montecchi live,
and I have heard Semiramide only in concert.)

At Violetta's last cry of joy I REALLY felt that she was actually cured, 
such was the magic of the moment. But at the next moment she 
collapsed, and the desperate Alfredo tried to lift her to life, 
and then sadly held her lifeless body in his arms. The death was very 
realistically played, there were no physical compromises in her acting. 

After the performance there was a stylish onstage celebration of the 
40th anniversary. You can see a clip of it here:

The performance was very well received overall, the applause must have 
lasted about 20 minutes, there was a standing ovation, too.

I got the impression that Ms. Young is held in high esteem in Hamburg.
A big applause greeted her when she entered the pit.
Interestingly, there are also a few people who dislike her style 
(or her achievements, or her gender, whatever), so much 
that they go to her performances to boo her at the curtain calls. 
(I saw just one performance, but a friend had the same experience 
at another performance.) Ms. Young did the only sensible thing: 
ignored the booers. She got quite a few bravos, too (also from me). 

The full cast list of the performance is here:

Edita Gruberova will do the same opera in concert performances
in Munich and Vienna in December. I will be happy to attend.

Best regards


OPERA-L on Facebook:
To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a message to [log in to unmask]
containing only the words:  SIGNOFF OPERA-L
To stay subscribed but TURN OFF mail, send a message to
[log in to unmask] containing only the words:  SET OPERA-L NOMAIL
Modify your settings:

Back to: Top of Message | Previous Page | Main OPERA-L Page



CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager