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14 February, 2007

La Traviata season heavily booked but free open air 'broadcast' still available

La Traviata, Sydney Opera House

Wed 14th February 2007

Violetta ValéryKate Ladner
Alfredo GermontAldo De Toro
Giorgio GermontWarwick Fyfe
MarquisBarry Ryan
Baron DoupholShane Lawrencev
FloraDomenica Matthews
GastoneGraeme MacFarlane
Doctor GrenvilRichard Anderson

ConductorTom Woods
DirectorElijah Moshinsky
DesignerMichael Yeargan

Dear Colleagues,

Walking along the waterfront towards the Sydney Opera House is a magnificent experience on a clear late summer’s evening. This week we will be able to see BOTH the QE II and the Queen Mary II ocean liners, one on each side of this city peninsular which used to contain a tram depot. Most of the world’s opera houses were built within their cities. Some are almost underground or in large ‘bunker’ buildings. Sydney’s is not the largest, nor the most modern, not the most steeped in history (although 50 years is older than many opera companies these days). It is certainly one of the most interesting externally.

With Elvira Fatykhova and Rosario La Spina, the ‘first cast’ of La Traviata in January impressed Sydney’s demanding audience … yet this ‘second cast’ was in no way ‘second rate’. I was told that the season is virtually sold out - and there was not an empty seat to be seen on Wednesday night.

Kate Ladner makes a splendid Violetta … while Aldo De Toro was more than adequate as her Alfredo. He has a singular and in some ways old fashioned way of singing, using his modest sized voice to benefit. His note placement and movements from one note to another often seem to be by way of several others in a manner which was quite pleasing and having the effect of unwritten ornamentation. It seemed like a cross between a glissando and vibrato but always finally landing on the note accurately. The timbre is smooth and rounded with a ‘Romanate’ quality, consistent with his Latin sounding name. Mr De Toro took the optional high C in the act 2 cabaletta with good effect. There is a slight ‘gear change’ which would only irritate the perfectionist I suspect.

Kate Ladner has a large voice with an exciting ring (or some say ‘ping’). There is no denying that the crowds LOVE a big voice, especially when it is beautiful and used with emotion. She can also trill, roll her ‘Rs’ and manage a high E flat (even if it is of a slightly different quality). I found her acting to be convincing and the audience response was enormous. A small crowd gave her a standing ovation which is most unusual in Sydney.

As Germont senior, Warwick Fyfe is half way to being a great singer. For unknown reasons he is unable or unwilling to modulate his large and accurate voice … even when it is really necessary, such as on ‘Piangi … piangi … ’ in Act II. It was shouted. We should hope for better things in the future if Fyfe can work on the voice.

The smaller roles were sung most competently by Domenica Matthews, Barry Ryan, Graeme MacFarlane, Richard Anderson and Shane Lawrencev.

Maestro Woods seems to have kept on M. Reggioli’s uniquely slow tempi, used to great effect with the Opera and Ballet orchestra in find form. He also managed some nicely contrasting fast sections … without going to extremes.

I noted a lot of American accents in the foyers and was told by a visiting couple from California that United Air had offered recent cheap fares to Australia as well as free tickets on points. A long way to go to the opera, perhaps!

Booking site for open air performance on Saturday 10th March 7.30pm.

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..