WNO La Traviata

LA TRAVIATA
WELSH NATIONAL OPERA AT BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME ****

Norman Stinchcombe sees an interesting nuance in this much-loved opera.

A fine individual performance can change one's perspective on a favourite opera. As Germont, father of the errant young Alfredo who is well on his way to becoming a wastrel, the baritone Roland Wood's incisive singing and authoritative presence made one rethink the dynamics of a familiar work. In the Act 2 confrontation between Germont and Violetta instead of the buttoned-up but actually soft-hearted old buffer we sometimes get, Wood gave us a tough man – Pura siccome un angelo tender but not lachrymose – who finds it hard to overcome his distaste at dealing with Violetta and returns her embrace with a wince. It made both his recognition of the dying Violetta's innate nobility, and the castigation of his son's callousness in the gambling scene, more powerful – a credit to David McVicar's direction.

Linda Richardson (Violetta) convincingly portrayed a woman on the edge of both respectable society and mortality. The florid coloratura of Ah, fors'è lui was well handled but, more importantly, Richardson took us on Violetta's journey from caution to abandonment in the quest for love. Hers is not a beautiful voice – its persistent beat nagged a bit – but was always used with dramatic intelligence. The young Australian tenor Kang Wang (Alfredo) showed great promise; high notes attacked cleanly, colouring and emotional tone varied and blending well in the Un dì, felice love duet. The WNO Chorus, and dancers, were lively party animals – a rollicking Libiamo – and conductor James Southall drew playing of subtlety and power from the excellent orchestra.
Norman Stinchcombe 

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