Friday, February 17, 2012

È'un fior che nasce e muore: NYCO Traviata

David Pomeroy (Alfredo) and Laquita Mitchell (Violetta) Photo (c) Pavel Antonov
New York City Opera, now peripatetic, but at least functioning, has started its spring season with La Traviata. The production was tame, the seats were subsidized, and the house was full. Laquita Mitchell led the cast with a spirited portrayal of Verdi's doomed courtesan. Jonathan Miller's production was created in 2009 to be shared by Glimmerglass and Vancouver; in this revival, at least, it was little more than a washed-out backdrop to the events of the plot. Perhaps in part because of patchy and slipshod supertitles, quite a number of first-time opera goers around me were left somewhat confused as to what was actually going on. (To the friend I had taken along for her second opera, I explained during the interval, which came in the middle of Act II, that Alfredo had a sister.) Under conductor Steven White, the orchestra gave a very fine performance, which helped the emotional energy of the evening considerably. The intensely felt passions of the drama were most fully present in the warm strings, the passionate and tender woodwinds, the reckless brass.

Although I was unimpressed with the production overall, Elena Araoz' revival direction did have the merit of supporting Verdi and Piave's vivid little character sketches in Act I: Gaston, Flora, and, most ominously, Douphol, were sharply realized. For the rest, emotional repression tentatively overcome seemed to predominate; I understand this better as a directorial choice for Jane Eyre than for Traviata. Among smaller roles, Karin Mushegain's Flora stood out. Her characterization was strong, her voice expressive, and she shaped her phrases with flirtatious relish. Kenneth Overton was a richly sonorous Dr. Grenvil. As Germont père, Stephen Powell gave what I thought was the finest performance of the evening. His singing was elegant, powerful, and passionate, delineating the aging man's journey from obstinate moralizing to compassion and penitence with moving precision. David Pomeroy must, I think, have had an off night. His singing was workmanlike, but often sounded forced. In the title role, Laquita Mitchell gave a portrayal of a woman fiercely committed to life. This fierceness was the keynote of her Violetta; I could have wished for some more nuance in creating emotional contrasts, but found myself moved nonetheless. Mitchell's soprano proved rich and lustrous, credibly commanding both in the scenes of Parisian revelry and in more intimate exchanges. She rode close to the bottom of the pitch at times, but sang charismatically. After the final applause, audience members around me were abuzz with shock and dismay at Violetta's death, which perhaps is the greatest tribute to this Traviata: they'll be back for more.


  1. Do you know, I've never actually seen La Traviata? Despite knowing the music, knowing the story, and all that. I'm looking forward to the broadcast in April.

    1. Gasp! ;) There are similar lacunae in my opera-going: an inevitable peril of being tied to location or the luck of travel, I suspect. The experience of the Beloved Flatmate demonstrates that the Decker production can be a great first Traviata; it's sleek and smart and unsentimental. Powerful stuff. If you want a pre-broadcast exposure to the "gushy period romance" school, Domingo and Stratas make the Zeffirelli film a pleasure that's barely guilty (despite cuts to the score.)


Start a conversation!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...