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La Traviata review at Glyndeboune – ‘a noteworthy Glyndebourne debut’

Alfredo (Zach Borichevsky) and Violetta (Kristina Mkhitaryan) in La Traviata at Glyndebourne. Photo: Robbie Jack Alfredo (Zach Borichevsky) and Violetta (Kristina Mkhitaryan) in La Traviata at Glyndebourne. Photo: Robbie Jack
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Glyndebourne’s website points to the “visual beauty’ and “opulent” production of Verdi’s tragic profile of the consumptive courtesan Violetta and her selfless love for Alfredo. In practice, Hildegard Bechtler’s sets largely comprise a pair of curved walls – that on the right upholstered, that on the left mostly bland-looking. At the back are subtle but unrevelatory projections by Nina Dunn. Presaging the finale, in which Violetta’s condition overcomes her, each act opens with the heroine in bed, leaving her in Act 2 to receive the visiting Giorgio (Alfredo’s father) in nightie and dressing gown. In this updated version, Violetta pops pills in the final act and the ensemble (at one point stiffly front-facing) depart to leave her to die alone, weakening the impression of loss. If Act 1’s party scene appears a touch tame, that in Act 2 is enlivened by the choreography of the Gypsy and Toreador episodes.

Within this sometimes ill-defined framing, Russian soprano Kristina Mkhitaryan makes a noteworthy Glyndebourne debut, conveying a woman of strength and resolve, but also one of warmth. In her vocal richness, athleticism and vivid colouring, she has everything the role demands. The same doesn’t quite go for her Alfredo, sung by Zach Borichevksy, who begins timidly but gathers strength through the evening. Igor Golovatenko may seem exaggeratedly severe upon his first arrival, but he sings Giorgio with assurance. Richard Farnes conducts with authority but it’s the singing, overall, that’s most impressive. A second run begins in August, with alternative casting of the three main roles, conducted by Andés Orozco-Estrada.

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The sets may be low-budget but the singing is often top-notch