Review: La traviata

Glyndebourne returns with a terrific production of Verdi’s classic

Irina Dubrovskaya’s intriguing rhythmic liquidity communicates a dreamlike quality - he is fully in the world, but not quite of it.

Irina Dubrovskaya’s intriguing rhythmic liquidity communicates a dreamlike quality - he is fully in the world, but not quite of it.

 

La traviata

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin

****

A lot has changed for opera in Dublin since a Glyndebourne tour first visited the city when it was a European capital of culture in 1991. Glyndebourne became the first company to stage an opera in the then barn-like Point Theatre (now the 3 Arena). As with later operatic and orchestral performance there, the size and problematic acoustics meant that amplification was deemed necessary.

Twenty-three years on, Dublin has lost the four annual productions and 18 nights of opera that Opera Ireland used to provide. But the city now has, in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, a venue that can accommodate the full scale of a visiting company from abroad, with an orchestra in a proper pit and a natural acoustic, and offer twice as many patrons better sound and greater comfort than the Gaiety Theatre (which was used by Opera Ireland).

Hildegard Bechtler’s set for Tom Cairns’s production of Verdi’s La traviata looks rather lonely on the stage. Two large, detached, curved walls move slowly and realign themselves, a bit like a slow-motion version of a shape-changing room in a horror movie, but without the chilling effect.

The loneliness seems to be intentional, sucking some of the life out of the crowded party scenes and draining any sense of comfortable domesticity out of the country retreat, to isolate Violetta (Russian soprano Irina Dubrovskaya) and Alfredo (US tenor Zach Borichevsky) and highlight the tensions and dependence in the relationship between them.

Borichevsky’s Alfredo is young, naive, uncertain, with all the potential for precipitous action that the uncertain can produce. Dubrovskaya’s Violetta is more experienced, more worldly and wise, but her vulnerability is to the fore, too, suggested by an unusual vocal restraint and a peculiarly intriguing rhythmic liquidity. That liquidity serves too to communicate a dreamlike quality — she is from the start fully in the world, but not quite of it.

A man certainly in and of the world is Russian baritone Roman Burdenko’s Giorgio Germont, an impassioned father pursuing his family’s interests with a direct vocal force that serves to emphasise the isolation of the young lovers. His reception at the end of the first night suggests that he has certainly won the audience’s hearts.

German conductor David Afkham, who shows a strong fondness for linear highlighting, encourages a full-on contribution from the pit.

Performances on Dec 5, 6