Opera Review: Stereotypical realism in ‘La Traviata’

Israel Opera Verdi: The Israel Opera Chorus "rendered the crowd scenes digestible" in La Traviata Opera House May 12.

Israel Opera Chorus 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel Opera Chorus 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In Verdi’s La Traviata at the Israel Opera, Andrejs Zagars’ direction and Andris Freibergs’ sets were stereotypically realistic. Crowd scenes were appropriately crowded. Violetta’s semi-striptease in Act I, though not objectionable, of course, contributed nothing to the action.
Zagars belongs to the species of directors who like to have their actors rolling on the floor at the end of Act I and in the death scene – not because the score or libretto demand it, but because it was once a fashionable trend, a sign of avant-garde modernity that became obsolete several decades ago.
The death scene substituted sentimental theatricality for good taste.
As Alfredo, Jean-Francois Borras stole the show. His radiant tenor, brilliantly joyful in his drinking song, intense and impassioned in his love scenes, and forceful in his jealous rage, made him a credible and desperate lover.
In the title role, Lana Kos’s bright, clear soprano produced some exquisite soft tones in the dying scene. Her final strong outburst, however, hardly sounded like what one might reasonably expect of a consumptive breathing her last. Most of the time her hard, Turandot-like top-volume voice did not suit the gentle, tender and frail personality of this sensitive character.
Vittorio Vitelli’s dark, sonorous baritone, as Germont senior, sounded almost Scarpia-like; arrogant and evil in his initial encounter with Violetta – not like a French gentleman – assertive and selfassured even in his subsequent aria and clumsy attempt at consoling her.
In his confrontation with his misbehaving son, though, he became authoritative and dignified, at last doing justice to the father figure he represents.
The Israel Opera Chorus rendered the crowd scenes digestible by its excellently rehearsed, cohesive and well-balanced singing.
David Stern, conducting the Rishon Lezion Symphony Orchestra, effectively conjured up the subtleties of the preludes to Acts I and III. But when the singers assumed their roles, he seemed to be carried away by the orchestra instead of turning down the volume to give the singers a chance to be heard.