In this revival of Michael Mayer’s sumptuous 2018 staging, La traviata – with a mostly new cast and a different conductor – is back at The Met. At the helm of the orchestra for the first time since his 2016 company debut, leading Madama Butterfly, Karel Mark Chichon uses his attentive baton to draw from the ensemble a subtle, shapely and theatrically alert performance of Verdi’s masterful score.
But the indisputable attraction of this season’s run is the vocal cast. At its center, in the tour de force role of Violetta, the ‘fallen woman’ of the opera’s title, Aleksandra Kurzak shines brightly. She is in superb voice and highly convincing, as she rips into the drama and traverses the emotional shifts of the courtesan’s fateful decline with fearsome intensity. From her first appearance – as the pleasure-loving coquette determined to live a life of luxury – to her final notes as the peacefully resigned tragic heroine – she constantly dazzles with coloratura and splendid acting skills. She is most impressive, both dramatically and vocally, in her Act Three aria ‘Addio del passato’ where – impoverished, alone and about to die – she sings a farewell to her happiness with her beloved Alfredo.
Kurzak is well-surrounded. Dmytro Popov, in his first Verdi role at The Met (he debuted in 2016 as Rodolfo in La bohème), makes a fine, if somewhat uncommonly naïve Alfredo. He brings attractive youthfulness, appropriate passion and an exceptionally strong tenor to the role of Violetta’s ardent young lover: tender and touching in ‘Un di felice, eterea’, his Act One duet with Violetta; fiery and remorseful in ‘O mio rimorso!’, his Act Two cabaletta; and powerful but desperate in the heated exchanges of the Act Three quintet, ‘Invitato a qui se quirmi’.
Reprising his highly-praised account as Giorgio Germont in last season’s performances of the work, Quinn Kelsey uses his elegant baritone and strong dramatic presence to deliver an emotionally intense and musically distinct portrayal of Alfredo’s stern father, who asks Violetta to make the great sacrifice of giving up his son but ends up embracing her as a daughter before she dies.
Essentially a three-person drama, La traviata offers few opportunities for the supporting members of the cast to shine individually. Nevertheless, Megan Marino and Maria Zifchak convincingly inhabit their respective roles as Violetta’s close friend Flora and the loyal maid Annina. Paul Corona makes an admirable showing as the kindly Doctor Grenvil, and Trevor Scheunemann is an especially cavalier Baron Douphol.