|The dark side of diva worship: Mikneviciute and ensemble, Act I (Photo © Martina Pipprich)|
Florian Czismadia led the orchestra in an account which was thoughtful, but suffered from pushed tempi. A little more leisure would have, I suspect, yielded more orchestral precision. Singers also seemed to struggle with the pace, especially regrettable in choral scenes which require percussive use of text. Instrumental solos were creditably handled, and the prelude to Act III was very sensitively performed, though the strings drifted slightly flat. If more varied tempi might have helped the orchestral nuance, matters were generally coherent, and Czismadia respected the silences of the score, which is no small thing. Smaller roles were all well-characterized, but the Dr. Grenvil of Hans-Otto Weiß was a standout. In this production, we see him throughout as the "true friend" whom Violetta greets in the third act, monitoring Violetta's symptoms, exhorting Annina to look after her, tenderly solicitous in the catastrophic Act II finale. Grenvil's vocal contributions were also sensitively handled by Weiß. Anke Steffens, as the faithful Annina, gave a dramatic performance strong enough that her brief sung exchanges and interjections were anything but anonymous. Her attempts to ease the last hours of the woman she loves were very moving; while Alfredo and Germont père utter pious penitence, it is Annina who deeply grieves, alone.
|L'uomo implacabil: Kilpeläinen & Mikneviciute, Act II|
Photo © Martina Pipprich
Vida Mikneviciute sang a fierce Violetta, dedicated to the freedom of making her own choices. As she gradually realizes how limited these choices are by the demands of a hypocritical society, she shows a simmering anger which I found refreshing in this so famously suffering heroine. Mikneviciute sounded a bit strained at the very top of her range but displayed great dynamic range, and made bold vocal choices which I liked. She made the recklessness of the Act I finale a palpable thing. Solid piano singing was effectively used to communicate both heartbreak and bitterness in "Dite alla giovine," and I really appreciated that Mikneviciute took her time with "Ed or si scrivi a lui." Act III offers no redemption; Violetta longs for her lover's tenderness, but knows herself abandoned, and her vision of Alfredo's future in "Se una pudica vergine" is one of a vicious cycle repeated. The life she craves is one that has always been denied her.