jueves, mayo 31, 2007

An unfortunate "Traviata"

Certainly no production in recent years has had such an appalling series of mishaps and substitutions as the Colón's 2007 "La Traviata" at the Coliseo. Mismanagement? Bad luck? A combination of both? The habitual close-mouthed attitude of the Colón prods gossip in an industrial scale; lacking clear explanations, anything goes: I won't add to it.

The facts concerning substitutions are as follows. The press conference announcing the season told us that the protagonists in the two casts would be: Violetta: Nathalie Manfrino / Maya Dashuk; Alfredo: Darío Schmunck / Enrique Folger. But after the subscription series were sold, both Violettas disappeared; they were replaced by Natalia Ushakova and Karen Vourch; the latter was in turn replaced by María José Siri. Eventually a third Violetta was presented: Victoria Loukianetz. The first Alfredo also vanished; a new name appeared: Raúl Giménez; at the last moment he was allegedly ill, and a young Mexican made his local debut: José Luis Duval. The Germonts were unchanged: Víctor Torres and Omar Carrión; but in the smaller parts there were also many different artists than those originally publicized. All this with no explanation.

But there was another factor: producer Eric Vigié aroused irate reactions in a degree that other objectionable productions haven't provoked in recent years. Was it because "La Traviata" is so famous that people feel stronger about transpositions of time in this case? But they accepted the Suárez Marzal production at the Luna Park, to my mind as extreme as Vigié's . Or was it a part of the presumed campaign? My readers know that I am a traditionalist in the sense of defending the original work, both music and libretto, and I have certainly attacked strongly many productions that have been meekly accepted elsewhere. Why this "Traviata", transposed to the 1920s in an Art Nouveau atmosphere well evoked by the rather attractive scenery by Enrique Bordolini, was so roundly attacked in some quarters?

I didn't like it either but I've seen worse. The problem, apart from accepting or not the transposition, was in the gross lapses of taste: in the First Act the provocative dress of Violetta ; in the Second she receives Germont in underwear and leaves for Paris in a dressing gown, and in her love nest she somehow lets a painter work with two models (a total incongruity); in the Third Act (I hold to the four-act division, not respected in this production) comes the worst: four scantily clad girls "dance" an absurd choreography by Diana Teocharidis and then play the part of bulls to a dwarf toreador! Etc. Imme Moeller is generally a good clothing designer, so I presume she followed Vigié's orders in the silly situations above.

A further point: the choice of "La Traviata" had as rationale that this year we commemorate the 150 years of the original Colón Theatre, and that this was the opera heard in the opening night in 1857. We've had a surfeit of "Traviatas" in recent years and this revival was certainly unnecessary, especially considering that the Argentino put it on simultaneously (they aren't to blame, they announced the opera much earlier). (By the way, I won't be writing about the Argentino's production, for it repeats in all particulars their revival of 2005 commented in the Herald).

The singers. I went to the third performance scheduled with Ushakova; but after the first and heavily criticized appearance she departed; I got the second cast Violetta, María José Siri. The Uruguayan artist has done the role here before; she is a convincing actress and a thorough professional, but the voice is too incisive and has too much vibrato. I also saw Loukianetz in the part; this petite Ukrainian has had a good career featuring varied roles including Gilda, suggesting some flexibility in the voice; well, she too has problems of incisiveness and the First Act had some harsh moments though she managed well the highest register and the fast runs; but as the opera went on, she found her best voice and produced some moments of strong emotional projection , giving us an expressive Violetta still vocally fresh at the end.

José Luis Duval gave a rather neutral impression; the voice is good and the high notes are there, but the phrasing was boring and the acting, wooden. Enrique Folger was the opposite: an engaging, emotional Alfredo with a faulty technique leading to a fatal break in the "cabaletta". Víctor Torres sang Germont as if in a song recital, his soft-grained voice and phrasing very beautiful but un-Verdian in timbre. Omar Carrión did his aria well but was a cypher as an actor and his voice sounded weak in the low register.

The smaller parts were generally well taken. Mónica Sardi and especially Mariana Carnovali were fine Floras; Leonardo Estévez and Alejandro Meerapfel gave us dramatic accounts of Baron Douphol; both Ariel Cazes and Juan Barrile offered sensitive portraits of Dr. Grenvil. Federico Sanguinetti and Esteban Hildebrand were rather neuter as D'Obigny, Vanesa Mautner was a muted Annina, and there was some strain in Gabriel Renaud as Gaston, less so in Gabriel Centeno.

It seems that in the first performance the string intonation was shaky; by the third and the last the orchestral results were reasonably good, and Guillermo Brizzio, an old pro, knows the style . The Chorus under Salvatore Caputo sang firmly and seemed involved in the hectic action.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald


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