La Traviata: Shared Production in San Sebastián

SpainSpain Verdi: La Traviata, Euskadi Symphonic Orchestra, Easo Chorus, Pietro Rizzo (conductor), Quincena Musical de San Sebastián, Kursaal, 11.8.2013 (JMI)

La Traviata © Quincena Musical
La Traviata © Quincena Musical

New production in association with Festival El Escorial, Opera Oviedo, Pamplona’s Baluarte and Cordoba’s Gran Teatro.

Violetta: Desirée Rancatore
Alfredo: José Bros
Germont: Ángel Ódena
Flora: Pilar Vázquez
Grenvil: Miguel Ángel Zapater
Annina: Marta Ubieta
Gastone: Albert Casals
Obigny: Damián del Castillo
Douphol: Fernando Latorre
Direction: Susana Gómez
Sets: Antonio López Fraga
Costumes: Gabriela Salaverri
Lighting: Alfonso Malanda.

San Sebastián’s Quincena Musical remains faithful to opera, although in recent years there has been only one title at each festival. This year the choice is La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, in a production that brings together the efforts of five Spanish opera houses, a sound decision nowadays.

The production by Susana Gómez does not go much beyond effective, with a stage consisting of translucent plastic walls and a few props (a table and a chaise longue).The costumes seemed somewhat monotonous: the chorus is always dressed in the same way, whether gypsies, bullfighters, guests at parties or at Carnival. The stage direction is quite traditional and rather poor when moving crowds about but with some interesting details, such as Germont’s intent to buy off Violetta.

The musical direction by Pietro Rizzo had some positive aspects. Overall, the conducting seemed sensible and controlled, and Rizzo drew a remarkable performance from the orchestra. There were moments when he accelerated tempi, which created some coordination problems with the stage. I’m not against quick tempos, but I think there was an excess at times. I didn’t like Rizzo’s decision to not repeat cabalettas, nor his offering only one verse of Addio del passato. The choir’s strong performance should be noted.

It’s well known how difficult it is for a soprano to overcome the challenges of Violetta’s score through the three acts which almost require three different sopranos. Desirée Rancatore, a more or less convincing Violetta, was at her best in the first act where she shone at Sempre libera, including the high E. The fact that her voice has widened in recent years allowed her to cope quite well with the scene with Germont, although she fell short in Amami, Alfredo. In the third act she was less convincing vocally, short of weight and emotion.

José Bros as Alfredo offered the best performance from a vocal point of view. His timbre is not to everybody’s liking, but his phrasing and diction are always elegant and faultless. This time he avoided the top note in his Act II cabaletta, and also the interpolated high note that he used to sing in his background to Sempre libera. Given past experience, I think this was a smart decision on his part.

Ángel Ódena sang Germont, and I think it’s a pity that he always tries to prove he has a big voice. We all know he does, and it would be better if he focused on pure singing. There has never been a problem with Odena’s ability to project in a theater, and he should be aware of that. When he controls his voice and uses mezza voce, things work very well. He could listen to Renato Bruson singing Germont (even when he was almost 70) and follow Bruson’s example.

The Kursaal auditorium was packed. The audience was warm during the performance and gave a good reception to the three protagonists.

José Mª. Irurzun