‘La Traviata’ at the National Concert Hall, April 19th 2015.

Ellen Kent and Chisinau National Opera promised a traditional staging of Giuseppe Verdi‘s La Traviata, and tonight this is exactly what the audience in the National Concert Hall receives. In a time when opera companies worldwide are attempting to push boundaries and directors are attempting to be creative with their productions, this opera’s staging is so simplistic that its success would be entirely judged by the quality of singing – a considerable amount of pressure for the cast.

The opera begins with a brief mention in the surtitles of La Dame aux Camelias by Alexander Dumas, from which  Verdi adapted the opera. The same backdrop of Paris through a window (designed by Nadia Shvets) is used for the entire opera, and the set consists of a table, a few chairs and a bed in Act 3. However, Verdi’s sumptuous music doesn’t require any frills, and conductor Nicolae Dohotaru achieves a nice balance of energy and grace, with a quite up tempo approach, from the relatively small touring orchestra.

The opera’s highlight is undoubtedly the performance of Violetta, played by Maria Tonina, who is not only dramatically convincing, but vocally assured, with her coloratura in Sempre Libera particularly pleasing. Alfredo, played by Giorgi Meladze, while possibly not as dramatically strong as his counterpart, sings the role with clarity and consistent tone.

The portrayal of Giorgio Germont (Alfredo’s father), sung by Vladimir Dragos, is however slightly problematic.  Rather than displaying emotions of arrogance when demanding that Violetta end the relationship with his son, or humility in act 3 when she is dying, Dragos gives a rather straight uncharacterised performance throughout. This makes the Act 2 scene in Violetta’s house in particular slightly tedious.  Furthermore, while it is evident that Dragos possesses a considerable instrument, too often he didn’t sustain the rich sound his voice could make.

Another issue facing this production is the chorus, or lack thereof. There are only a handful of singers, and it becomes evident that there were as many non-singing extras on stage as chorus members. They are at a considerable disadvantage in the Act 2 finale, where the inner harmonies are lost to the louder orchestra and soloists. It appears that little effort had been afforded to chorus production, with the opening scene suffering from a lacklustre ‘stand and deliver’ approach, while the frolicking in the matador scene appears sloppy.

However, the success of La Traviata rests on the shoulders of Violetta, and Maria Tonina does enough to ensure this opera is well received with the Dublin audience.