La Traviata, with Pérez, Costello, Keenlyside, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2014Posted on 7 May 2014
Nothing could take away from the stunning performance of Ailyn Pérez as Violetta — not the Royal Opera House gremlins that turned the house lights on and off again during her final aria in Act II, nor the management that failed to provide flowers for the curtain calls. This was magic, the first of four performances by Pérez, Costello and Keenlyside — the last of which will be a live cinema relay.
From the lovely lilting voice of Ms Pérez’s first entrance to the final duet with Stephen Costello’s Alfredo and her death as she rushes with renewed strength into his arms, this was a glorious performance. The beautiful soliloquy (È strano) towards the end of Act I followed by the wonderful control in Follie! Delirio, along with the Amami Alfredo of Act II, and the sombre reading of Germont’s letter in Act III framed a performance of dazzling emotional intensity.
The interaction between her and Stephen Costello gave a convincing, almost non-operatic slant to their relationship, her internal gyroscope of control helping him portray the callowness of Alfredo in a way most tenors might find uncomfortable. As his father, Simon Keenlyside was an ideal foil to both these young lovers, firm and controlled at the start of his meeting with Violetta, yet increasingly moved by her plight until, when she reveals her fatal illness, his No, generosa, vivere was sung with immense feeling.
Aside from the singing, Richard Eyre’s fine production, with its huge mirror in Act III recalling fleeting scenes from the past and the visual images of Violetta during the overture, was well revived by Daniel Dooner. The chorus were excellent, and Jette Parker principal Jihoon Kim sang brilliantly as Dr. Grenvil. As conductor, Dan Ettinger produced wonderfully delicate and sensitive playing from the orchestra during the overture, and remarkable force in the first scene of Act II, but after conducting a different cast of principals since April 19, there was a lack of synchronisation with the singers, particularly in Act I. Rather oddly, however, he is not scheduled to conduct the live relay on May 20.
But the main accolades go to American soprano Ailyn Pérez, whose beauty matches her terrific vocal ability and command of the stage. We should see much more of her at Covent Garden.
There are just three further performances with this cast — on May 12, 17, 20, with a live cinema relay on May 20 — for details click here.