Magri and Daza Rescue Berlin’s Bewildering La Traviata

25/09/2014

Verdi, La traviata: Soloists, Staatsopernchor, Staatskapelle Berlin/Domingo Hindoyan (conductor), Schiller Theatre, Berlin, 20.9.2014 (MC)

La Traviata Staatsoper Berlin © Ruth-Walz.jpg

La Traviata Staatsoper Berlin © Ruth-Walz.jpg

Cast:
Violetta Valéry: Evelin Novak
Flora Bervoix: Katharina Kammerloher
Annina: Annika Schlicht
Alfredo Germont: Ivan Magri
Giorgio Germont: Alfredo Daza
Gaston: Stephen Chambers
Baron Douphol: Maximilian Krumenn
Marquis D’Obigny: Girigory Shkarupa
Dr. Grenvil: Jan Martiník
Giuseppe: Frank Szafranski
Flora’s servant/Commissioner: Thomas Neubauer

 

Production:
Director: Peter Mussbach
Set design: Erich Wonder
Costume design: Andrea Schmidt-Futterer
Lighting: Franz Peter David
Video: Stefan Runge/Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck
Choir trainer: Martin Wright

 

Whilst the State Opera House on Unter den Linden is being renovated, the Berlin State Opera company and the Staatskapelle Berlin are still housed in the attractive surroundings of the Schiller Theatre. Over the last few years I have come to feel comfortable attending productions at the Schiller Theatre and I took my seat with high expectations for Verdi’s eternally popular La traviata.

 What hits you immediately about this production under director Peter Mussbach is the bewildering set. The whole of the front of the stage (the proscenium arch) including the orchestra pit had been covered by a hessian-like fabric upon which video images, mainly lines, were shot across. I thought initially this fabric would be in place for a short time and would be later removed; but no such luck. Sadly it was securely fixed. Consequently the audience had to watch the opera through what is in effect sacking which served to reduce the clarity of the view, leaving me straining to see; my eyes soon tired. Why any director would wish to partially obscure the scene is quite beyond me. Apart from a gathered curtain at the rear and a single wooden chair the stage was as bare as I have ever seen; maybe that was the reason for the obscuring. Oh, I almost forgot there were two gangplanks fixed from the front of the stage into the orchestra pit to allow singers to egress from the stage. It’s a shame the dark and dismal monochrome set design was so unfriendly as the acting and singing, although uneven, was reasonably satisfying with a few welcome highlights.

 Dressed throughout in what looked like a white wedding dress Violetta Valéry the renowned courtesan was played by the Croatian soprano Evelin Novak whose bright voice was unsteady early on but did improve. Projecting well and containing decent diction her voice rather grew on me although I never found it entirely attractive owing to a lack of fluidity and slight shrieking at the high notes when at full tilt. With regard to Novak’s acting as I sit writing this report a few days after the performance I’m still unsure how to judge it as she seemed to literally spend most of her time lying, kneeling or falling to the floor. Curiously in those minority moments when not lying on the floor Novak was lurching or staggering about the stage, as if intoxicated or drugged and occasionally cavorting on the solitary chair.

 What saved the production from disaster was the singing and acting of Ivan Magri as Alfredo Germont and Alfredo Daza as his brother Giorgio, undoubtedly the stand out performers. Dressed in black suiting Magri with his long and flowing dark hair came across more like a dashing Spanish matador than Verdi’s young French nobleman. Blessed with heart-throb looks Magri’s attractive voice, fluidly forceful, did strain a touch at the high notes but made a fine overall impression with his singing and acting. Shining like a beacon through the dismal staging was Mexican born rock steady baritone Alfredo Daza as Giorgio Germont. At times gloriously moving Daza, with his distinct tone of dark foreboding, displayed such ease of projection.

 The supporting cast gave perfectly acceptable performances without any individual standing out. Full credit to the splendid chorus in dramatic and precise voice all evening even if they had to endure being dressed like ghouls with long dark coats, ashen faced and wearing black Lone Ranger masks under dark mesh moods which felt like something dreamed up for the fourth form school play. In the orchestra pit conductor Domingo Hindoyan and the Staatskapelle Berlin did everything asked of them.

Michael Cookson

Print Friendly

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2017 features Salieri’s The School of Jealousy __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder Announces Seventh Festival of Song for April __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera Announces its 2017/2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Autumn/Winter Season __________________________________
  • NEW! General Booking is Now Open for Longborough Festival Opera 2017 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2017 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at London’s Southbank Centre in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music in 2017-18 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! 2017 50th Blossom Music Festival season in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio __________________________________
  • NEW! The Carnegie Hall 2017-2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview of the LA Opera 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2017 Season in its New Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! Garsington Opera’s Extended 2017 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Robert Farr reports on the 26th Annual Singing Competition Final – Elizabeth Harwood Memorial Award for Singers __________________________________
  • UPDATED IN MEMORIAM NICOLAI GEDDA (1925-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Culture and the Coast: Garsington’s Opera for All and the new Coastal Culture Network __________________________________
  • NEW! BARITONE MICHAEL VOLLE IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST ALEXANDER KARPEYEV IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Reviews of Opera in Mumbai: A Gala and La Bohème Revisited __________________________________
  • NEW! FIVE YOUNG SINGERS JOIN THE JETTE PARKER YOUNG ARTISTS FOR 2017 __________________________________
  • NEW! THE SOPRANO ELISABETH MEISTER: FIGHTING BACK FROM WHAT LIFE THROWS AT YOU AND INSPIRING OTHERS __________________________________
  • NEW! REVIEWERS OF SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL PICK THEIR BEST OF 2016 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Mastersingers Celebrate Wagner Past and Present with the Rehearsal Orchestra __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H