Festival Opera - La Traviata by Verdi
Music director José Aparicio
Sung in Italian with English surtitles
Napier Municipal Theatre
Reviewed by Peter Williams
Festival Opera again heralded the start of the annual Art Deco celebrations with this spectacular operatic production.
Like most operas, the plot is convoluted with just enough story on which to hang the glorious music.
The critically ill consumptive, free living, Parisian courtesan, Violetta Valéry, seeks a new lifestyle when she falls in love with Alfredo Germont, only to have it disrupted by Alfredo's straight-laced, disapproving father, Giorgio.
Violetta returns to her partying former ways, leading eventually to a reconciliation with Alfredo and the inevitable, tragic end.
Polish soprano Anna Patalong as Violetta, and tenor Rosario La Spina as Alfredo, were well-matched and well-cast in both their dramatic and vocal roles.
They clearly portrayed the ever-changing emotions, from the delight of a newfound love to the bitter contrast of the numerous poignant moments in the story - in the duet, Un de felice and the solo, Ah, fors e lui, Violetta's response to finding true love, and in the final death-bed duet, Parigi o cara.
Baritone James Harrison dramatically portrayed the character of the spoiler role of Giorgio, very successfully, vividly projecting the feeling of family loyalty in the aria Di Provenza.
The important supporting roles of Project Prima Volta graduate, soprano Niamh Bentley, as Violetta's friend Flora Bervoix, soprano Caroline Hickman as Violetta's servant Annina and bass-baritone Joseph Christensen as the third part in the love triangle, the imposing figure of Baron Duphoul, were all carried out very successfully, together with the contribution of several other players.
Great singing from the chorus of adult singers and PPV members, particularly in the opening scene, and the party in the second act, with the colourful, lively dance routines.
The expert guiding hand of conductor and set designer José Aparicio was clearly in evidence throughout as he adeptly directed the whole production, guiding the 47-piece orchestra, with concertmaster Stephanie Buzzard, as they underpinned all the action on stage with their balanced, sensitive accompaniment.
Some lovely solo playing, particularly the oboe, and beautifully played introductions to the first and third acts.
The time of the action was updated from mid-19th century to the Art Deco period, matching the elegant finery of many in the near-capacity audience.
The collaborative skill of visiting stage director John Lee Wilkie was clearly demonstrated in the groupings on stage and the lively overall pace of the production, with just an occasional momentary hiatus.
Tessa Paaymen's costume designs matched the period well and Jo Kilgour's lighting sequences effectively highlighted the action in various parts of the stage. The set, with the moveable room in the first and third acts, worked well, with the simple set for the party scene particularly suitable.
Don't miss one of the other performances – 5pm on Thursday, 7pm Saturday and 2pm Monday.