Last night at the opera

On Saturday, again with my colleague, K, (D is still in China, from which I have just returned) to see Opera Australia’s production of La Traviata.

I have not yet tired of Elijah Moshinsky’s production, and especially the set (there were a few moments where the action seemed to have coarsened). That is notwithstanding a rather too modern bicycle and what looked like (from where I sat) filter-tipped cigarettes. I suppose we must accept that Violetta would write her letters in pencil of some sort, since ink is dramatically inconvenient.

It’s a great work. Emma Matthews, as Violetta, received a warm reception. I’m not really sure she has a Verdian voice. That’s not crucial: nor, for that matter, did OA’s for a while almost perennial Violetta. Elvira Fatykhova, really have one. I think I preferred EF’s more fragile approach to the role: Emma was bigger on Violetta’s defiance of constraint (Sempre libera) than on any very convincing consumptiveness.

Opposite her was Martin Buckingham as Alfredo. He is described as a rising Australian tenor. There is still a bit of rising to do. He was good when angry in the card-playing scene, but does not yet have a relaxed-sounding (but actually strong so not really all that relaxed) cantilena line for the more romantic moments, and his departing high note in Act II scene i was a bit of a fizzer. His diction is good. He is small statured which assisted a boyish rendition though I think he needs to relax his bearing a little.

Up close, MB seemed too young for Emma. Jose Carbo, as his dad, seemed a better match age-wise, and so really a bit young for that role, which he sang beautifully. He really is a rising star in the company’s firmament. The rest of the ensemble part were strongly cast – in part, I suspect, because there is little else left in the season for the singers to do so the company could pick from its ensemble top drawer.

Patrick Lange conducted. The orchestra apparently liked him though from my spot just in front of the violins I think he could have been a bit stricter on the ensemble in the divisi strings work at the beginning of the overture and the last act. On the other hand, the strings really dug into the more furious music in Act II scene ii to most exciting effect. Just for the record (because it is exceptional) the flutes/piccolo in the pit were both boys (well, men, by now, I suppose, though they still seem young to me). As is my wont, I should also record a cimbasso sighting. Act II scene i is at the heart of this opera, but orchestrally it is the tread of death in the brass section in the last scene which makes the hairs stand up on my neck and the tears prick my eyes.

Shamefully, this was the last real opera in Opera Australia’s 2013 Sydney winter season. 2014 will be no better. More of that anon.

One Response to “Last night at the opera”

  1. Markus Says:

    I saw Martin Buckingham sing Alfredo with OZ Opera. At the end of the aria cabaletta he sang an amazing top c which carried for almost 10 bars……. It was thrilling!

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