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Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Verdi: La Traviata
Conductor: Zubin Mehta
In Verdi's "La Traviata," performed in concert form by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the men stole the show. As Alfredo, Mark Hervieux's appealing lyric tenor sounded richly inflected and abundant in subtle nuances. He was a thoroughly credible lover, and also intense in his passionate expression of jealousy.
Alfredo's father, Germont, was convincingly represented by Andrzey Dobber's sonorous baritone. At first he was authoritative more than compassionate, and even his "weep, weep!" sounded like a command, not an emotional outburst. But later, he rose to a genuine expression of human emotion, especially in his aria to Alfredo. Anja Harteros' bright, clear soprano and forceful rendition as Violetta made her a perfect dramatic heroine. One can imagine her as an overwhelming Norma or Odabella in Verdi's "Attila". But this is not exactly what Violetta requires. The frailty and delicacy, and also the initial coquettishness of this moving role were hardly conveyed by this singer's assertive expression. Zubin Mehta held the orchestra and the Philharmonia Singers Choir firmly in his grasp, and achieved drama, tension, and also subtlety when required.
One of Verdi's most moving operas, "La Traviata" (Italian for "A Fallen Woman") depicts the tragic end of a French courtesan: not only is she dying of tuberculoses, but she also has to give up her love. Although in the format of a concert performance, this IPO rendition beautifully conveyed some of the opera's musical treasures, giving the audience a truly touching experience.
Unlike Zubin Mehta's usual tendency to cast his IPO opera performances with a battery of foreign stars, this cast presented many local names, leaving only the three main roles to foreigners. Of these, German soprano Anja Harteros in the title role was the most notable, featuring a wonderful voice and an arresting personality. A close second was Polish baritone Andrzej Dobber, whose imposing voice made a very impressive Giorgio Germont. The cast's downside was Canadian Marc Hervieux (Alfredo), whose voice was strained. His stage charisma hardly matched that of his colleagues. Another downside to the performance was the use of singing and playing from behind the screen, which, due to the unwelcome conditions of the hall, was hardly audible. Looking at the larger picture, however, this was surely a performance to enjoy.