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Bari – Teatro Petruzzelli: La Traviata

Eduardo Benarroch

Is it possible the there is one Musical Opinion reader who has never seen La Traviata?   And maybe is it also possible this reader has not formed an opinion about the central character before even seeing the opera?   And maybe this reader also has a great degree of sympathy for Violetta, feeling as one does, that she has been given a bad hand in life, that she has been reduced to sell herself to the best bidder.   I know what Gurnemanz would say, Mmmmm…..  So prepare yourselves for another kind of Violetta. One that feels perfectly at home in her skin, who enjoys giving parties full of lascivious couples, who drinks champagne non-stop, who knows how to choose her lovers and feels this is her world.  For this Violetta “Sempre Libera” means, for once, exactly that: she is free and has no commitments, nothing to tie her down.   So it is not strange that when she hears Alfredo singing outside her window and exclaims “Ah, forse lui…”  her attitude is one of impatience, “who is this young man who intrudes in my world and comes to disturb my peace?” In the second act, we see a different type of Violetta, where she is no longer in command. When Giorgio Germont enters and demands she releases his son from her clutches she responds innocently, unskilled: she does not know what to do because this is definitely not her world and nothing has prepared her for this.  By the time the last act comes, she is a shadow of herself, but she does not enjoy self pity and gives Alfredo advice…. before this poor young man is able to realize what kind of woman he let go earlier, the end comes.  We have seen many Violettas who give the impression that they are doomed from the beginning, who sing Sempre Libera more like a musical exercise rather than an expression of freedom. Nino Machaidze did exactly the opposite. Hardly have I seen a Violetta enjoying her party with such gusto, so sexy, so much in command. Her first act register was perfect, no problem with the coloratura nor with the lightness in the voice; in the second, she let her lyrical tessitura bloom, the contrast between the two Violettas could not have been greater. Hers was a fine Violetta indeed and all of her own, as acting-wise she was the only one to project the character’s inner thoughts.

Celso Albelo’s Alfredo followed the line of well schooled Spanish singers. His voice reflected this, direct, clean, safe, no vices, he sang the second act cabaletta oh mio remorso with full tone ending with a well placed top C (which is not in the score, but never mind).  It would not be the first time that a Giorgio Germont takes the laurels and the biggest applause in the evening. It happened to me in Buenos Aires many years ago when Joan Sutherland made her debut. Her Germont pére was Piero Cappuccilli, also making his debut. On December 18th, it was Vladimir Stoyanov’s turn to provide the best singing of the evening, which was already high.  Stoyanov had to contend with a very poor regie by Hugo de Ana, who did not allow him to project a credible role on stage. But Stoyanov more than compensated with his singing: smooth, characterful, very well phrased – a very fine singer indeed. There were also good contributions from Daniella Innamorati as an expert and dominant Flora, Margarita Pugliese as a decisive Annina, Saverio Fiore as a fresh-voiced Gastone and Dongho Kim as Dr Grenvil, a promising voice. But all this would not have sufficed to elevate this performance from a reasonably good level, to a very fine level, and this was achieved thanks to Giacomo Sagripanti – a conductor who took the score by the horns and delivered a fresh, mostly fast, reading, full of chiaroscuri, deliberate changes of tempi making this a memorable evening of pure Italianate sound. Sagripanti made the score sound alive, full of energy and when coming to special moments (such as Amami Alfredo!) he used the brass to such an effect to frame this short episode that one thought I have never heard it like this before.  Make no mistake, the Petruzzelli has a very good orchestra, which will be well tested later on next year with Salome, Tannhäuser and even The Rape of Lucretia. I have no hesitation in recommending a visit to Bari and the Petruzzelli.

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