La Traviata is all about passion. Passion propels the opera’s drama forward, from the moment the impulsive Violetta decides to abandon her life as a courtesan after being swept off her feet by the ardent Alfredo. Their romantic if poverty-stricken idyll is soon destroyed by Giorgio, Alfredo’s father, who wants to rescue his beloved son from this disreputable woman. Verdi’s gorgeous score, from the gaiety of the opening party scene to the bleak despair of the lovers’ final moments together, ensures that La Traviata is, or should be, a three-handkerchief weepie.
While there are moments of passion in Glyndebourne Tour’s revival of its 2014 production (originally directed by Tom Cairns and by James Hurley in this revival), on the whole, it is curiously uninvolving. The sparks do not fly between Violetta and Alfredo, and the heavy emoting is directed as much to the set as to each other. To be fair, Emanuele D’Aguanno is a replacement for the originally cast Alfredo, Fabrizio Paesano.
The production’s most affecting encounters are between Giorgio (a richly voiced Noel Bouley) and Violetta (Mane Galoyan), who adeptly plays up her character’s desire to be a daughter to this commanding figure. Galoyan also has some moving solo turns, notably a defiant Sempre Libera.
The set and costumes are not period specific, and this can be strangely disconcerting, even if there are memorable, individual costumes, including Violetta’s shimmering, Gustav Klimt-like gown.
Conductor Christoph Altstaedt diplomatically guides the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra through the singers’ sometimes conflicting tempo ideas and gracefully brings out many key moments, such as the delicate string opening of Act IV.
Indeed, Verdi’s music, with its many well-loved tunes, always enchants an audience and tonight was no exception. Not a production for the ages, but one that will nonetheless hit that operatic passion button for many.