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La Traviata review at Royal Opera House London

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Revived here by Patrick Young, Richard Eyre’s 1994 production has done good service for the Royal Opera. Its straightforward narrative approach and traditional designs allow a variety of singers to step into the major roles without having to worry too much about complex business, let alone a ‘concept’. The downside is that it can be a dull experience if the central performances lack strong personality.

As the doomed courtesan, French soprano Norah Amsellem looks a dream and she proves a fluent vocalist, if a touch careless at times. But she fails to stamp her mark upon the role and does not engage the audience with her emotional plight. Only with ‘Addio del passato’ in the final act does she really strike home.

As her young lover, American tenor Charles Castronovo fields an equally adept vocal performance, though one without any individual features whatsoever. He looks and sounds charming but you never believe in him as the ardent, hot-headed provincial youth bowled over by his glamorous partner.

With Gerald Finley’s Germont, however, the performance finally comes alive. Though his voice is on the small side for the role, and not exactly Italianate, Finley’s musical scrupulousness, dramatic flair and sheer intelligence win the day. He misses nothing.

Small roles and chorus scenes are well done and conductor Maurizio Benini is never less than efficient and sometimes more. But there is a gap in the centre of the piece that cannot be disguised.

Production Information

Royal Opera House, London, January 29-February 15

Richard Eyre, Patrick Young
Royal Opera
Cast includes
Norah Amsellem, Charles Castronovo, Gerald Finley
Running time
3hrs 20mins

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