La Traviata, one of Verdi’s most intimate, introverted, lyric and unheroic operas, was made into a grand spectacle by the Israeli Opera’s performance at Masada.

The grandiose silhouette of Masada, when visible in the dark behind the stage, effectively dwarfed the action.

Director Michal Znaniecki and set designer Luigi Scoglio’s fireworks, irritating gimmicks, tricks and repeated pyrotechnics (where was the fire brigade?) were tailored for the benefit of those for whom the music was mere background noise. Unlike the Masada production of Nabucco several years ago, there were no camels, but real, live horses, whether needed or not, were found.

Standing out among the singers was Giorgio Berruggi as Alfredo. He not only displayed a radiant tenor, he was also sensitive to the text’s meaning and emotions. His voice was enriched with nuances of dynamics and expression, so that even two similar notes never sounded the same. He was completely convincing as an impassioned and later enraged lover.

In the title role, Elena Mosuc’s soprano did not sound as angelic as was hoped. She seemed intent on parading her clear, high – but not always quite steady – voice and well-lubricated, virtuoso coloraturas forcefully and impressively. But her meditative, pensive aria Ah, fors’ e lui sounded like an assertive declaration of intent, and Violetta’s gentle, frail and innocent character was at odds with Mosuc’s forceful rendition which lacked the desired softness.

In her dying scene she made one wonder where a consumptive breathing her last found the strength for such fortissimo outcries.

Ionut Pascu’s appealing, warm baritone dramatized a dignified, at first arrogant and then compassionate, intensely emotional Germont senior.

His moving aria Di Provenza was one of the performance’s highlights.

Conducted by Daniel Oren, the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion sounded uncommonly refined from the first notes of the Prelude. It adjusted itself to the singers’ intentions with subtle flexibility. Mr. Oren also emphasized the action’s changing dramatic and emotional events convincingly.

Masada played its assigned role of silent observer with its historical fortitude and benevolence.

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