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High-production of 'La Traviata' by Giuseppe Verdi

Monday, 23 June 2014 , ora 8.00
The highly expected new production of La Traviata, was enacted at the Romanian National Opera House in Iasi. The outsize of the audience was spectacular both during the general rehearsal and the A and B first performances, which took place at the end of the week. The great interest was due not only to the joy of listening to a beloved score once again, but mainly to the fact that the staging had been created by Beatrice Rancea; her excitement is double because she is also the theatre's manager. The scenography by itself, master-minded by Doina Levintza, promised to be staging a super-production. The moment the curtain was raised, the impression of the first two acts caused a great feedback from the audience, as they discovered a completely new image of Verdi's work; it was as if the storyline had been placed in the contemporaneity, but retrospecting to the age when the author created it, the result consisting in a possibly shocking and breath-taking bottom line. The revolving stage brought something new on the stage of the opera house. On this revolving stage, a winding ascent had been assembled, this way both parallel plans and the perception of a wide space being created, while the 'glass' panels added up the feeling of desired momentousness. A break-through is also given by the dresses and their opulent red colour which intercharge with white and pastel shades, in their classic and elegant cut and the fanciful hats. The men's suits, modern somehow, lead to the impression of a ball in a magnificent frame. Far from the traditional look, Violetta wears a crimson dress with a huge flowered train, just the same as her bolero-scarf. The stage is full of flowers; water flows against a greenery decorated mounting made of glass. This theme carries on also in the second act, the glasshouse-garden infusing into the Japanese stamp, with branches and white flowers garlands that imbue the glass panels with a vegetal abundance that captures the audience. In the first act, Violetta is in her salon, on a gilded bed and Annina is helping her make up while the doctor Grenvil sees her and gives her medicines. After this act, the revolving stage brings into the open the party's brightness, where they are probably dancing to rock music, the champagne glasses pyramid, the candelabra and the fireworks. These all round well with the broad movement of an exuberant cheerfulness. The grand aria brings back the heroine into her room, an unhackneyed change-over from an interior monologue to a confession to her lady's maid-friend and to the doctor. The unexpected tackling carries forward into the next act, too, when the two lovers are having a pillow fight. Alfredo sings his aria whereas Violetta…threads him up. Violetta herself diverted 'strikes an attitude' and once Germont steps into the picture another character shows up; there had been discussions on this character, but nobody could see her before: the innocent daughter on behalf of whom the father asks Violetta to break up with Alfredo. Delicate and diaphane, dressed up in pink veils the girl keeps track of their confrontation from a distance, making the same gestures as Violetta. Subsequent to this, the girl goes to Violetta in order to comfort her, but she is brutally estranged by the latter by her authoritarian, almost hard-hearted father, who does the same thing with Antonio, whom he handles roughly; angry about his son's permanent rejection, the young girl comes of an 'argument' in his attempt to of persuade Alfredo. They are strong characters, their relationship develops spontaneously, in a perpetual movement. Perhaps Violetta is too nervous as she runs up and down the stage causing the excessive iteration of some attitudes like Germont's successive repetitive gestures; however, everything 'runs off' in a credible way in the XXIst century's style. It seems that the party at Flora's house takes place in a record library-buffet. The green-neon gambling table, the red-neon bordering and the game of lights give forth to the environment specific to that particular space where you can also see the fancy dresses and the gipsy ones, the more retouched ballerina dresses, the matadors and the soloists pair wearing traditional cloths. They are dancing together with boys dressed in print T-shirts, some of them wearing 'bull' masks in a blue light that intensifies the diffusive image. The action bears strain and fluency. Baron Douphol is an aggressive 'protector' of Violetta, who even from the first scene, on accords of the Prelude, pays and analyses her as a beautiful object which is exposed then in public. 'At Flora's house' he behaves as if he were a small mogul. To be honest, I didn't understand why Alfredo seated himself on the chair until the curtain came down, the same as Germont, while the choir was vehemently asking him to leave. The last act surprises the audience again by the unexpected change of the medium. The mirror and the background are coated with a black veil; the gilded bed from the room where Violetta suffers remains the only light generator, but only for a short period of time. Once again, in an unacted manner, it is sold and pulled off the stage along with the pompous dresses which the heroine had worn in the previous acts. Furthermore, the famous aria is being performed to the fore of a display, where she can revise the second act with Alfonso, a fact related to the 'old times' which it conjures. But soon the display is also taken by those who 'liquidate' all the things from the house of the woman who appears like a shadow through the black veil that covers the glass walls, as well. She carries in the cameo and gives it to Alfredo. She dies in his arms and lightens her own candle. There are lots of ideas. The unitary vision is maintained by the perpetual movement, a flustered or frenetic one. The two casts are well balanced, with young soloists with beautiful voices. They are soloists of ability who are able to build the success of 'unusual' stage directions that approach ingenious solutions and ideas, intended to be out of the ordinary. This way the audience is constantly taken aback and impressed as it watches in an almost touchable calmness the keen action which takes place on stage. The soloists take part in the turnover of the spectacular staging in a medium that changes from the glamourous atmosphere to the oppressive one in the end. Lăcrămioara-Maria Hrubaru-Roată was very impressive in the role of Violetta Valery during the first evening. Apparently very delicate but of an impressionable interior strength and with outstanding strong emotions related to her achievements, formidable when in anguish and dismay. The passion and sensitiveness of the character are seen in every gesture she makes, in all her blushes and her voice which I highly admired. Once again I applauded the fineness of her voice, her phrasing and the compass's equality, her decisive acute and the ravishing piano chords that bring out into high relief the drama of the last act. The reading aloud of the letter was also remarkable, and took place in a pure and spontaneous manner. I had seldom had the chance to read something alike even in established works. The soloist attests the easiness and the credibility of a heroine who is able to captivate the audience and to constantly communicate to the public Violetta's feelings. The tenor Cosmin Marcovici, who had performed in projects of wide scope before, was her stage colleague. Based on his experience he managed to solve accurately the difficult voice interpretation and his stage performance. He was able to put together his commanding appearance with his artlessness, and this was his own hall-mark on the presentation. An agreeable surprise was caused by the appearance of the bariton Adrian Mărcan, from the Brașov Opera House, in Germont. One could hear his loud and incisive voice, well directed and 'collected', the 'aura' he bestows on the character whom he emphasized, but without making any excesses, his inflexible hardness. He contours a clean-cut image of an overbearing and authoritarian man favoured by the outstanding staging occurrence. Talking about pithiness we must appreciate the mezzo-soprano Florentina Onică, who performed in a very impressive way in Flora. She makes her performance notable in the party scenes by her stylishness and fervour. The mezzo-soprano Marinela Nicola, performing in the role of Annina, rejoiced over her compelling image. She constantly communicates with Violetta, enacting her part self-confidently and easily. Also Alexandru Aghenie, from the Brașov Opera House, was the perfect interpreter of Baron Douphol due to his charisma and aggressiveness needed for performing his role as Violetta's 'protector', to whom he is vehemently asserting his terms. The ballet dancer Larisa Lăcătușu had an exquisite performance in 'Alfredo's sister'. The character is fearsome and frightened and she is trying to escape from her father's despotism. The entire cast, balanced and harmonious, gathered young professional soloists, with impeccable interreptations even in the supporting roles: Daniel Mateianu (Marquis D'Obigny), Victor Zharia (Doctor Grenvil), Andrei Apreotesei (Gaston), Alexandru-Cristian Savin (in Giuseppe as his first appearance), Ionuț-Antim Todică (in the Commission-agent and the Gardner). During the following evening the main roles showed new perspectives and a new approach in regard to the individual of the soloists. The soprano Ana-Maria Donose performed her debut as Violetta Vallery. She is a beautiful woman, captivated by the heroine's charm, whom she enacts carefully and with great femininity. She feels good by playing this role, of the enamoured woman, even in the end, when she suffers with dignity because she was abandoned by her lover. She is very interested in her full vocal score, performing thoughtfully, breaking all the difficulties. She uses a slowly tempo in the duet she sings with Germont, bravely integrating herself into the action and staging. The tenor Florin Guzgă stood by her side on every performance, becoming more and more persuasive due to his marvelous voice. He makes the most of his voice, awakening the audience's enthusiasm; a well-known tenor, he demonstrated to his audience that he is also a very good actor, a flexible and appellative one capable of expressing rakishly the tenseness. This time we met Florin Estefan, from the Cluj Opera House, in Germont. His round voice has brought to the character's personality a lyric feature. He tempers the counteraction of the unforgiving father, laying out an awfulness image and integrating himself naturally into action. The mezzo-soprano Marinela Macsim-Nicoară also created in Flora a new attractive and charismatic typology, while the soprano Daniela Burlacu started in Annina with hardness and discretion. Adrian Ionescu enacted as Gaston, Florin Roman as Giuseppe along with their colleagues from the former performance. The public who attended both nights had the opportunity to compare both performances. Both of them are coherent and the chorus, with the conductor Manuel Giugula, had excellent fruition and an astonishing representativeness. In the third act the dancers performed firmly and in a very elegant manner in the expressive scenes. Georgiana Ciutoiu performed on the passo doble choreography along with the soloists Roxana Dorin and Marian Chirazi. The orchestra scored by the conductor Gabriel Bebeșelea managed to create a loud consistency and coloured and rare musical palette, with contrasts between slow and rhythmically episodes. The conductor knows how to moderate the brass winds from the first act and to coordinate the pit-stage interface with gracefulness and measure. He gave proof of his professional maturity, handling the unexpected difficulties so that the entire presentation was seamless. Ovations, big applause, superlatively appreciations on behalf of the audience, flowers and confetti gratified the new presentation and the artists who had performed in both performances. Beatrice Rancea, the director and the manager enjoyed the enactment success and its strong impact on the public. Everything had been carefully set by means of the colourful brightness and the glamorous of the old costumes brought to the present day. The joinder of the intense experiences with strong and natural characters was the 'the key' of the super production that the audience had expected for a long time. The remarkable success is the best consideration for the effort of the entire team who had striven to give birth to the new La Traviata at the Romanian National Opera House in Iasi, a piece of work that will have 'a long life' to the delight of the opera lovers.

Anca Florea
Translated by Anca Elena Băluț and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, The University of Bucharest