Cher Public

Bright young thing

“Though La Traviata means ‘the lost one,’ Thursday’s Met performance of the Verdi tearjerker featured a major find: Diana Damrau, who, in her first outing as Violetta, mesmerized with her gleaming soprano and ferocious acting.” [New York Post]

  • Camille

    I agree.

    It was a wonderful surprise. Especially the much passed over and skirted around E flat in alt, which miraculously reappeared. I ‘ll buy that!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    A great review for an even greater night at the opera. I could tell from listening to the broadcast that JJ would give this a rave.

  • Drammy

    Yay, such a positive and optimistic review! :) :)

    JJ you’re the best ! I’m going to see this hopefully on the 26th or 30th of March. Looking forward to seeing Damrau. Her Italian sounds super crisp.. I remember sometimes hearing versions of sempre libera where the words were hard to catch but that’s def not a problem here.

  • Madamina

    La Cieca -- First, let me thank you for years of insightful observation, entertainment and diversion. I have been a regular “lurker” on this fabulous site for over six years. This is the first time I’ve felt brave (or inspired) enough to comment publicly. I’m so glad to see a positive reception for Diana Damrau’s Violetta. I was at Thursday night’s performance, and felt so very moved by her interptretation. I admit that I love this production, and the mix of the production, combined with Ms. Damrau’s healthy and vibrant voice, was an unexpected pleasure!

    • Sneakeater

      3/18/13 — How strange to see a Traviata where you kind of wish Germont would fill in for Alfredo.

  • Very happy to hear the performance was as good as it sounded on the radio. I was only able to hear the last act on my phone waiting at the airport but I was struck by her beautiful Addio, it made me sit up and pay close attention.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    How things have changed with time. When the Decker original production came out on DVD, many, even on this site, dismissed it as “Eurotrash.” This Traviata is meant to be for the ages, depicting dramatic character study like no other with the right Violetta, of course.

    • oedipe

      But Dr. Papas, there is only ONE right Violetta, isn’t there?

      • Feldmarschallin

        And that would be? I can think of a handful of great Violettas with Callas leading the pack. Scotto, Zeani, Cebotari, Harteros, Gheorghiu and then I am sure Melba, Sembrich and Patti were also great Violettas. Next season I look forward to hearing Yoncheva as Violetta since I heard many good things about her. And then Festspiele Damrau another one who has been getting glowing reviews even on this site. And if one looks at who sang the role in the past we find light sopranos like Galli-Curci and Ivogün and then ones like Caniglia who sang Tosca and Aida. The role can be approached in different ways.

        • manou

          Yoncheva did indeed garner plaudits for her Violetta, and so did Joyce El-Khoury in Saint-Etienne. The new generation is promising!

          • armerjacquino

            Not to mention Corinne Winters.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Let’s not forget Poplavskaya -- ‘perhaps the finest Violetta of our time’.

          I think Oedipe is referring to the one you didn’t mention though, Feldmarschallin. Constantine has a long standing affection for Netrebko.

          • Feldmarschallin

            Well Cocky when Poplavskaya sang Violetta here she got booed so I wouldn’t exactly call her the finest Violetta of our time. She hasn’t been back since and no one here really cares or I should say would prefer if she didn’t come again. If I forgot one in the first post, it was Varady :)

          • messa di voce

            I think Cocky is quoting our doyenne’s review of this production when it opened in NY.

        • La Valkyrietta

          Lean Partridge will sing Violetta in La Grande Vitesse.

          • manou

            Lean partridges are the ones getting booked now instead of the fat turkeys.

          • oedipe

            Are you surprised? Have you seen the casts for the upcoming season?

          • oedipe

            (How can a fat turkey run à grande vitesse?)

          • manou

            A fat turkey must run at grande vitesse if the conductor is Yannick Nézet-Seguin.

          • La Valkyrietta

            La Grande Vitesse is not a pear tree, it is a place somewhere in Michigan. :)

          • La Valkyrietta

            Je m’excuse, Leah.

          • Nerva Nelli

            Leah Partridge’s Violeta in Philadelphia was a “looks casting” non-event, vocally worthy perhaps of a bus and truck tour 40 years ago and dramatically in the Miss Florida mode.

        • Bill

          Feldmarschallin -- you even forgot Cotrubas -- I saw her in Munich with Aragall and Brendel
          (Kleiber) and she was the most heartbreaking
          Violetta imaginable -- gorgeously sung as well.
          Argall was in resplendent voice -- Pilou was
          also quite wonderful -- Tebaldi richly sung --
          The role fits so many sopranos in different ways. I loved Hilde Gueden as Violetta actually outsinging di Stefano who was himself
          excellent in Vienna. And we should not
          forget Patricia Brooks at the New York City
          Opera -- a complete performance -- she was a
          wonderful actress. It was one of Moffo’s best
          roles at a certain time in her career and I liked Gruberova quite a bit as well (not everyone did due to her non-Italianlike voice)and she sang with considerable vocal nuance. Who knows what Selma Kurz was like? Or Schwarzkopf or Stich-Randall -- or Leyla Gencer who must have made something of the role -- Zeani was rather ideal with sufficient florid
          ability for the first act and a wonderful sense
          of vocal richness and pathos for the later acts. I cannot imagine that singers such as Lily Pons or Erna Berger would be considered ideal Violettas today after Callas and her ilk but light coloraturas used to sing it regularly -- Rothenberger even tried it but only once in Vienna. I have enjoyed Stoyanova’s Violetta quite a bit as well (not so much Fleming who had no spontaneity.) Welitsch sang Violetta only once in her life -- in 1956 (too late!!!)in the Volksoper.

          • Feldmarschallin

            Bill I saw those Gruberova Violettas with Kleiber and was not convinced. Her acting was not what it is today and there were several moments where you had to laugh like in the last act when she fumbles to put her coat on. Vocally also she left me cold. Cotrubas was never one I could warm up to. Violetta needs to be vulnerable and that is one thing IMO Tebaldi never was althought that Butterfly from Naples has her in great voice and she is quite touching there. Welitsch in her prime would have been something. Gruberova is a bit like Sutherland in the role that you know they will nail the first act but after that they are not at their best.

          • oedipe

            Violetta needs to be vulnerable

            That’s my only reservation regarding Damrau’s Violetta. She sounded passionate and nuanced, but a little too healthy and feisty for the character, IMO.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I prefer it when they leave the vulnerability to the acting for the most part, and keep the singing healthy. That goes for Mimis too as far as I’m concerned. I’m not saying I don’t want some different colours, but too often it just descends into an unsupported mess.

          • DonCarloFanatic

            Violetta needs to be vulnerable but too often she is given dead white makeup, when consumption’s striking characteristic was a hectic pink flush. Wasting or extreme thinness is not necessarily accurate, either. So, yes, let’s leave the vulnerability to the acting and singing.

          • Another thing about vulnerability is that some singers have that quality inherently in their voices while others don’t. So, it doesn’t even have to come down to vocal effects or unsupported singing (though I’m sure people could argue that Cotrubas had a tendency towards unsupported singing).

            For comparison purposes: Joan Sutherland had that vulnerable quality in her voice while Jessye Norman did not (this also answers the unanswered question about which role those two ladies shared).

          • that should be “unasked question”, not “unanswered question”.

          • Nerva Nelli

            Stich-Randall (ya know) can be heard on a German language radio tape from Koeln, maybe 1953? opposite Robert Blasius. A fascinating take on the role vocally--but not for Zinka’s ears!

            My most memorable Violettas were Brooks and Miriciuou, but purely vocally the best I have heard were Nicolesco and Stoyanova.

            A *very* good current Violetta despite not being from Germany or Austria [:)] : Elizabeth Caballero.

            And of course Barstow’s voicing of the role was inimitable--though several expiring mallards have tried.

        • oedipe

          I have no doubt Yoncheva is a very good Violetta, but what the Met, the ROH and others should cast her as is Manon: there any many good Violettas out there these days and VERY few (if any) good Manons. Hoping that they are reading Parterre…

          And BTW, I am being punished for badmouthing the ROH casting department: according to the grapevine, Ermonela Jaho will sing 10 (ten!!!) performances of La Traviata at Bastille in the 2014/2015 season. Though having heard her Manon, her Violetta MUST be better.

          • oedipe

            …there are many…

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Last time Netrebko canclled some Violettas in London, I ended up seeing Jaho in the role. She was definitely coming up with some coping strategies for act I (not so much the coloratura, but the exposed high cs and d-flats that require a bit of a corona), but she was effective and fairly touching in Acts II and III. Nothing to write home about, but not bad. Better than Elena Kelessidi!

          • Hippolyte

            In response to kashania’s asked “unasked” question, Sutherland and Norman shared far more than Lidione (including recordings only): both also sang Aida, Nozze’s Countess, Giulietta in Hoffmann, and Weber’s Euryanthe.

          • Thanks, Hippolyte. I never knew Sutherland sang Aida (though I knew she had done some Verdi roles, including Amelia, in her pre-Lucia years in London) and the Countess makes sense. I know that Giulietta was in Jessye’s listed rep but I don’t know where she sang it. Do you?

          • Hippolyte

            Like Euryanthe (and so many other roles--Salome/Fidelio, etc.), Norman sang Giulietta only on recordings.

          • Krunoslav

            Hippolyte, Norman and Sutherland also both sang Purcells’ Dido (Sutherland’s in 1947).

        • The_Kid

          Damrau did an awesome job, by all accounts, and I am happy for her.
          As for Violettas down the ages: I’d include Licia Albanese, Luiza Tetrazinni, Antonina Nezhdanova,Ingeborg Hallstein, and the much-ignored Rosanna Carteri in the list. Teresa Stratas was pretty darn nice in the video, although for once I didn’t like her singing (wasn’t she ill or something?),….and of course Sutherland was, well, Sutherland.
          Here’s a nice collection of “Sempre Libera”s from YT:

          • The_Kid

            BTW, what are the options for the last note of ‘sempre libera’? Everybody seems to end the aria with a different word! :P

          • actfive

            Loved this compilation. Callas wins by a mile. Also loved Moffo, Tetrazzini, Sills. I love that E-flat.

        • my favorite Violettas seen live were Adriana Maliponte and Patricia Brooks. On recording, Callas’ 1958 London with Valletti would be a desert island disc.

    • armerjacquino

      When the Decker original production came out on DVD, many, even on this site, dismissed it as “Eurotrash

      Um, have you read the other thread about this production? Still plenty of people chuntering on about how this is an insult to Verdi because of the cut and colour of Violetta’s dress and other such outrages.

      • bluecabochon

        I saw this production with Poplavskaya at its prima and don’t care for it at all. If that’s “chuntering”, whatever that means, I can live with that. I love a good regie production but not this one, and I’ll confine my attendance to listening to it over the airwaves as long as it remains in the repertory.

        • manou

          Chuntering is always preferable to chundering.

        • Chanterelle

          My main problem with Poplavskaya’s Violetta was her dramatic choices--I can’t even remember her singing. I’ve never seen such a cold-hearted, mocking Violetta. The tone was all wrong for the story, even if the novel is written from a fairly detached point of view. Oddly enough, though, with Damrau and the warmth she brings to the role, the production felt off kilter.

          • Chanterelle

            Forgot to add that I though Damrau was wonderful and I look forward to her interpretation becoming deeper.

    • Are you sure that the same people who dismissed the production before are the ones praising it? I’m always amazed when someone declares his/her surprise that something or someone who was once poorly received on this site is now being positively viewed (or vice versa). As if anyone can keep track of who said what about whom. And as if opinion on parterre is ever unanimous.

  • actfive

    Great review. I am now even more anxious to hear this Traviata, as I have never warmed to Damrau…I wonder if motherhood X2 has given her more depth and warmth.

  • antikitschychick

    ITA Addio del Passato sounded amazing…she has great legato and her voice has gained a depth and warmth post-pregnancy that really elevated her performance imho…I hope someone posts some more clips on yt soon as I missed big chunks of her performance…Placido wasn’t as bad as I thought he’d be…the role sits in a part of his voice that highlights his pleasant tone and the overall warmth of the sound…don’t know if it sounded different in the house but at least over the radio broadcast it was ok…I did complain about his lack of legato during the chat but he actually sounded nervous… or ill…or both lol
    I didn’t care for the tenor, although he did improve as the run went on…could be that his voice just took forever to warm up…it happens..poor guy…would have liked an HD of this but, I can understand the decision to reserve this for the in-house audience.

    • kennedet

      I think Domingo will again get the bottom range. Remember that’s where he started. Undoubtedly, he will get many more opportunities to sing baritone in the major houses because of his name recognition,etc.,IMO, which means filling seats. Also, his age will help with the richness of the lower register. I sensed a lack of holding the long notes because of a slight shortness of breath. Of course, try to sing Di Provenza at 72 and see how well your breath support holds up. He is definitely “one for the books” and quite a trooper. Didn’t he say “if you rest you rust”?

  • Really glad to hear the success that Damrau is having with the role. I’ve always been a fan (especially after I saw her live in the Met’s Aegyptische Helena) but her efforts in the Italian rep have usually been met with mixed reviews. Her tone has gained warmth over the last few years (her pregnancies probably didn’t hurt) and I’m assuming that she has worked hard at developing a command of the style (and I always applaud hard work). With her stage personality and with audio clips that I’ve heard, I’m sure this is the best portrayal this production has had since it debuted at the Met. Poplavskaya is magnetic on stage but had enough vocal shortcomings on the radio broadcast for me to discount her as a great Violetta and Dessay’s effort… well, enough said about that.

  • degan

    I would say that of all active singers Gheorghiu is still the best Violetta around with the most complete voice for all acts and the old fashioned Italian primadonna style that is required for the role.
    I liked Damrau a lot but I am missing Italianita.
    My second choice would be Nebs if she should ever sing it again…
    Other Violettas that are among the best today are Stoyanova and Harteros.
    Fleming was never my cup of tea in this role like many others (Popsy…).
    Yoncheva is really promising as a mixture of Gheorghiu and Stoyanova…

    • messa di voce

      Are we sure it’s still in AG’s active repertoire?

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        She hasn’t done it since 2010. It wouldn’t surprise me if it had been ruled out now, although I’d be at the front of the cue if she did do it again.

        • messa di voce

          She seems to have narrowed her active repertoire to Magda and Mimi.

          • And Adriana Lecouvreur, in which she was radiant.

        • manou

          She plays billiards?

        • degan

          I hope that she will sing it again soon. I haven’t heard any vocal issues in her last performances and I believe that she had problems with contracts because she was booked for many seasons in advance at the Met and other houses where she is persona non grata today. Unfortunately those performances were cancelled so she has now a lot more free time that she has to spend on concerts because there are not many contracts left. Her Mimis seem to me more like a last minute offer to her to get her to the opera houses because she still is a big opera star.
          I also believe that she still has no problems with Violetta, maybe act 1 is getting heavier for her but I believe the High Cs should not be a problem, the coloratura should also not be a problem and the rest of the opera is the part where she is the absolute number one!

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I’m not as convinced as you are that she wouldn’t struggle in Act I, I think she has accumulated a bit of baggage over the years that has detracted from the flexibility needed to really excel in that scene. Still, I’m sure she’d do fine, and I do agree with you that she is very hard to beat in Acts II and III.

    • MontyNostry

      I saw Yoncheva for the first time the other week -- as Musetta. The voice sounded a lot brighter and more angular than either Gheorghiu or or Stoyanova. I even wondered whether she was a little like fellow-Bulgarian Welitsch. She didn’t do a diminuendo on the top note at the end of the Waltz Song, which was disappointing. (Is that in the score or just a tradition?)

      • MontyNostry

        Of the younger sopranos, I thought that Yoncheva was in a similar vein to Marina Rebekah (though I think Rebekah’s voice is perhaps more intriguing).

        • oedipe

          Yoncheva doesn’t sound at all “angular” in the French rep. She sounds nuanced and sensuous. Rebeka sounds icy to me.

          • MontyNostry

            I meant the tone was more angular, rather than the style. Both Ange and Stoyanova have quite lush, soft-grained timbres (though very different from each other), while Yoncheva (as Musetta at least) had more edge. I’m not sure her performance (in a somewhat limited role, admittedly) would have singled her out to me as a star, but she acted very well in the last act -- she had been too hammy up till then, but that might have been the fault of Copley’s camp old production. I’ve only seen Rebekah in a recital and she impressed me a lot. It’s not a conventionally pretty sound, but I found her performances quite subtle and gripping.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Monty I am pretty sure it is in the score, but it is a very long time since I’ve looked. Hellish difficult to do, of course.

    • antikitschychick

      I know its really a matter of personal taste but imho, AN is leagues ahead of Angela in the role of Traviata, esp. in terms of overall characterization…to give a specific example, her interpretation of “Ah Forse Lui” from the 2005 Salzburg performance was extraordinarily moving to me…she really gave that aria the nuanced attention it deserves, whilst many sopranos tend to sort of rush through it to get Sempre Libera over with…AN, on the other hand really took her time and let each phrase really build..indeed she displayed a level of musical intuitiveness and sensitivity that complemented the panache with which she sang sempre libera so precisely..its a combination I’ve not seen/heard often and when I saw it from her I became a fan.
      I actually didn’t like her at all before seeing that performance; I didn’t really “get” why she was covering the voice so much, but she really proved her artistry right then and there, to me at least.
      Granted I do think the production elevated her performance in that she seemed so comfortable within the ambiance that Decker created it gave her interpretation a fluidity that would prob be more difficult to pull off in a more traditional staging… all in all her performance certainly resonated with me because I could sense that the distinction between “singer/performer” and “role/character” that is often times very pronounced in many opera performances wasn’t so in this particular one. Therefore, the meta-theatrical experience was much more cohesive and inviting to the spectator, I thought.
      As far as Angela, I’ll just say that I’ve seen some clips of her in the role and she is just not to my liking, although I do recognize her obvious talents.

      • degan

        Angie is booked for Vienna for Adriana Tosca and Mimi next season.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Gosh -- hearing Gheorghiu’s Tosca in the acoustic of the Vienna State Opera would be pretty special. Definitely one to try and get to.

          • oedipe

            Cocky,

            If you decide to go to Vienna for Angela’s Tosca, you could couple it with Kurzak’s Traviata on the following day. Hmm…

  • oedipe

    In other (unrelated) news, a recent blind item from La Cieca apparently didn’t fly…Or didn’t fly over.

    It seems that the Liceu GM Matabosh -not wanting to enrage, in these crisis times, an already depressed and grouchy audience- said “No!” when the Met approached him asking to buy out Alagna from a run of Buttefly that has been sold out for months now. It may or may not be true that Matabosh walked away humming “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love”.

    But at any rate, Giordani told us during one of the Francesca HD intermissions that a main reason he likes the role of Paolo is because it’s easy…

    Wouldn’t it be preferable for the Met to avoid getting into this kind of messy situations by doing a more thoughtful and appropriate casting in the first place?

    • DonCarloFanatic

      At Giordani’s career stage, an easy role is the right role for him. He sounded good almost to the end of last Saturday’s Francesca. Then the dryness crept in. In Ernani he sounded dry from the beginning.

      I thoroughly enjoyed the Francesca, BTW, and if La Cieca ever deigns to allow us another intermission thread, shall tell you all why.

      • oedipe

        Well, maybe Giordani considers the role easy, but it didn’t sound that way to me in the HD. He sounded strangulated much of the time and by the end he was practically choking.

        • Chanterelle

          Giordani sounded so much better than I had expected. In the house he husbanded his resources intelligently and never made me wince (more than could be said for Westbroek). It’s sad that this should be considered praise, but it depends on your expectations. I imagine any choking sound at the end were drowned out by the orchestra, to which Armiliato gave increasingly free rein.

          I must say that Francesca was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen on the Met stage. A sumptuous procession of gorgeous tableaux and lush sounds, perfect for sampling between sorties from your box to smoke a cigar or arrange a tryst. Oh wait, that was 100 years ago…

          • messa di voce

            Giordani always sounds better in the house: one of the least broadcast-friendly voices around.

          • DonCarloFanatic

            But surely that’s the point for some of us? To visit the (idealized) world of 100 years ago that we are not old enough to have experienced firsthand?

          • Indiana Loiterer III

            You mean the Met changed the costumes from medieval to Edwardian/Georgian without anyone noticing? (But seriously, Chantarelle was referring to audience behavior of 100 years ago.)

  • erricco

    In 1984, during the last-ever MET visit to Toronto (in pre-surtitles days) we gave up on Francesca halfway, although it looked lovely. Last Saturday it was good to see the more exciting second half, but Giordani was a trial.
    Another poster suggested using sets and costumes for a different opera. How about L’Amore di Tre Re? Could anyone suggest how to cast it?

  • Niel Rishoi

    Bill mentioned Gruberova earlier. I’d like to introduce a few clips from her 1992 Venice performance. This is Violetta’s entrance in the 2nd act, to the first part of the duet with Germont. The crucial bit of interpretation that is really unusual from most other Violettas happens at 3:50. Watch her face when he mentions his children; her warm, glowing response, “di due figli?”; and the reactions when Germont is telling her about them is indicative of Violetta’s caring persona:

    She’s actually LISTENING to Germont, charmed by the account of his family. Most Violetta’s react too soon here, anticipating prophetically…

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    The energizer bunny is on the move again. What does one do between performances of La Traviata? Fly off to Dubai to sing a concert for UNESCO.
    http://www.abudhabifestival.ae/en/events/festivals-2/abu-dhabi-festival-2013/programmes-1/main-programme-1/plcido-at-the-palace.html

  • Nerva Nelli

    Salvatore Cordella jumped in as Alfredo with 15 minutes’ notice last night and the show went on. He didn’t falter and is idiomatic but sounded in Act One like Altoum or Dr. Caius. Better in Act Two-- but kind of Il Ritorno di Dino Formichini…

    After a few cold minutes, Damrau kicked in and was quite wonderful. And I have to say PD greatky exceeded my expectations, though the prompter had a busy night. Bravo Yannick!

    • operaddict

      Thank God for body mics……they can take a humdrum day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile…..

      • Tell us more about the Illuminati.

        • operaddict

          There it is again…that hateful M word…
          Let all be sure that Santa DOES come down the chimney, the Tooth Fairy WILL leave you a quarter under your pillow…and the Easter Bunny hides those wonderful chocolate eggs around the house.
          The Iluminati hang lights on the eaves at holiday time and All is well with the world. What the hell difference does it make?
          E quel ch’egli e

    • Sneakeater

      SHOULD HAVE POSTED THIS HERE:

      3/18/13 — How strange to see a Traviata where you kind of wish Germont would fill in for Alfredo.

  • Drammy

    Hullo, Parterre,

    Anybody going to see Traviata this Saturday? Entered the raffle for rush tickets and looking forward to it :) Knock on wood.

    if anybody wants to meet fellow opera fans (don’t know if this happens often) my friend (a post-doc), her husband, and I (college kid) will be around the cheap seats.

    Drammy