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Review: Opera: A Traviata that gets into bed with tragedy: La Traviata Glyndebourne, Lewes 4/5

July 19, 2014

Andrew Clements

It's more than a quarter of a century since Glyndebourne last staged La Traviata. Those who have been awaiting its return, and like their Verdi elegant and straightforward, with the emphasis on the vocal performances, will enjoy Tom Cairns's new production.

Hildegard Bechtler's designs update the story without flamboyance to near the present day, and whatever the nature of Violetta's incurable illness, it isn't likely to be TB. It all works well dramatically, with just the nagging sense that the production could have been more psychologically penetrating. There are occasional suggestions that Cairns had toyed with developing subsidiary strands and characters, such as the maid Annina, but thought better of it, just as there are moments when some protagonists lack texture.

This is not Traviata presented as a critique of money and class and all their pretensions and hypocrisies - it is Glyndebourne, after all - but a production that places Violetta's tragedy at its centre. Each act opens with her lying on the bed on which we assume she will die, though in its final moments Cairns's production takes a leap into bare-stage abstraction for her demise.

Having Venera Gimadieva in the role makes such an approach much easier. She is a soprano of huge presence, with a voice of thrilling security and range. It's a remarkable, touching Glyndebourne debut, and she's paired with an Alfredo, Michael Fabiano, whose singing has real zest and attack, though his performance is one that would have benefited from closer attention dramatically. Tassis Christoyannis's ramrod-straight Giorgio Germont is a little dull, too, but very well sung, and Mark Elder's conducting has Verdian authority. The London Philharmonic is in the pit; after the success of the Falstaff revival with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment last year, this was perhaps a missed opportunity for a Traviata with a period orchestra.

In rep until 23 August. Box office:

01273 813813.


Thrilling range . . . Venera Gimadieva makes her Glyndebourne debut Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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