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La Traviata

The first of two casts takes to the Covent Garden stage in the latest revival, by Daniel Dooner, of Richard Eyre’s production – new in 1994 – of Verdi’s classic. It must be hard, especially mid-season, to maintain dramatic vitality in a show that returns year in, year out, with umpteen more or less starry casts in tow, and it has to be said that despite everyone’s efforts the trick doesn’t work this time around. The cast includes some distinguished singers, and a decent conductor is in the pit, but this Traviata is not the moving experience it should be.

German soprano Diana Damrau, however, is certainly one of the most accurate exponents of Violetta you will ever hear. She looks elegant – if rather too healthy for a dying consumptive – but she never touches the heart; it’s all perfectly executed, but in this role that’s not enough.

In his second assignment for the Royal Opera, Sardinian tenor Francesco Demuro looks the handsome young lover and sings attractively, if without any strong sense of vocal or stage personality. He and Damrau seem only mildly interested in one another.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky sings Germont, as he regularly has in this staging since 1996, and indeed he sings his heart out, though once again the essential drama of his big scene with Damrau goes missing; the two scarcely look at one another.

Smaller roles are all competently done, with Sarah Pring giving Annina some dimensionality. But Violetta’s party guests seem a desperately respectable lot. Maybe time for a new production, or at least a thoroughly spring-cleaned revival.

George Hall