Magazine article The Spectator

Great Expectations

Magazine article The Spectator

Great Expectations

Article excerpt

La Traviata

Royal Opera House

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera ended its season with yet another revival of Richard Eyre's production of La Traviata , and the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance, the latter a most interesting affair, but without much of a critical presence, presumably because it was at 1 p. m.

on a Saturday. The distinctive feature of the Traviata revival was that Angela Gheorghiu returned to sing the role of Violetta, in which she had her first great international success, and which she has not sung at Covent Garden since 1996. I attended the third performance (First Capital Connect had thwarted my attempt to go to the first) and was somewhat disappointed. I had very high expectations. Despite the fact that Traviata has been served very well at the Royal Opera recently, notably by Anna Netrebko and by Ermonela Jaho, the latter a few weeks ago, I hoped for something remarkable.

Jaho's interpretation was characterised by total immersion in the part, a major factor being her exquisite posture at key moments:

she lived the role. I can't say that Gheorghiu did. I regard her as a singer of astonishing gifts, beginning with a voice which is, in itself, affecting, in the way that Callas's was.

She is beautiful, slender, graceful, a visually and vocally convincing embodiment of several of her key roles. But there tends to be a fatal lack of passion. Her gestures are slightly contrived, she seems to live for the big moments and to be rather casual about what comes in between, which was where such great singers as Callas and Renata Scotto showed their depth of understanding. And, on this occasion at least, she was in only moderately good voice. It struck me that the volume she can routinely produce has considerably diminished, that there are fewer colours in her voice than there were, that it has become less instantly recognisable. The acrobatic demands of Act I were met, but with nothing to spare; but she made less than she can of the pathos of the scene with Germont, and all told was less engaged than I expected.

Looking over her discography, and over the times that I have seen her, I am struck by how much more often I have warmed to her in recital (for all the stinginess of the quantity she sings in one) than onstage. Also by the smallness of her repertoire, surely the tiniest of any major operatic star. …

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