La Traviata, with Bobro, Grigolo and Gavanelli, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, 23 January 2012.Posted on 24 January 2012
This performance on January 23 was to have been the first of two with Ermonela Jaho as Violetta, and Vittorio Grigolo as Alfredo, but Ms. Jaho was unwell and her place was taken at the last minute by Slovenian soprano Bernarda Bobro, making her debut at Covent Garden. She has recently sung the role in Estonia, Schleswig-Holstein and Stuttgart, and worked with the Royal Opera House cast throughout the rehearsals, so she was well placed to fit into the production, and gave a fine performance.
This reminds me of 17th January 2008 when Ermonela Jaho took over from Anna Netrebko in the same production. Act I is a tough one to pull off for Violetta, veering from party girl to someone who wonders whether she should continue disdaining love in favour of her life of arid pleasure. Ms. Bobro’s voice sounded a bit light here but her top notes were glorious, and in the scene with Paolo Gavanelli as Alfredo’s father in Act II she really came into her own, both of them beautifully restrained, yet dismissive and finally respectful of one another. Great stuff, preceded of course by Vittorio Grigolo giving vent to his frustrations and his boundless love for Violetta. Huge applause from the audience, and at the end of the opera Mr. Grigolo came forth to claim his due, holding his heart and opening his arms to centre, left and right. His singing was superb, as was his acting in Act III as Violetta is dying. He stood rooted to the spot, until his father gestured to him to go to her.
This Richard Eyre production still works very well indeed. It has an intimate quality sometimes lacking in Traviata, and in the final act I love the big mirror where Violetta sees fleeting visions of her past life. Hanna Hipp was lovely as her maid Annina, and the way Jean Kalman’s lighting falls on her and Violetta at the start of the final act is a work of art.
With fine musical direction from Maurizio Benini in the orchestra pit, the principals, Bobro, Grigolo and Gavanelli were wonderful together. It’s always interesting to see how the baritone plays Afredo’s father — there are so many possible interpretations — and Paolo Gavanelli gave it a memorably restrained gravitas. But main plaudits must go to Bernarda Bobro who was surely not expecting to be on stage, and her very pretty voice infused the role of Violetta with a quiet tragedy. At the end she looked so young, and so washed out, that one could believe her life had come full circle far too soon. The frail one could live no more.
The other performance with the same cast is on January 25, again with Bernarda Bobro as Violetta — for details click here.