Nicole Car joined by world class colleagues in splendid outing of this Verdi classic.
Rarely since the Sutherland days have we heard such dynamic vocalism as from these three magnificent principal artists and the massed talents of the national opera company and orchestra. I was so impressed on opening night that I ventured back mid-season and was not disappointed. Both nights were full houses apart from the balcony boxes which were almost empty.
Mr Ji-Min Park as the younger Germont took all the hard options and they came off splendidly. A famous American tenor once called this a tenor-killer role which few take on a second time such is its vocal and dramatic challenges.
Ukranian baritone Vitaliy Bilyy sang and acted a dignified Papa Germont. His voice is deeply resonant with extended breath control, almost like the late lamented Dmitry Hvorostovsky. His big aria was splendid with some personal flourishes: Di Provenza il mar il suol with full cabaletta ending the act. He sings very long phrases on single breaths and acts the drama with sincerity.
But top card goes to soprano Nicole Car who has ‘arrived’ with this portrayal of Violetta, one of the most difficult roles in the operatic canon. She is required to sing coloratura in Act 1 then solid dramatic soprano for the remainder of the 4 acts. It would be easy to cast the role using two singers but only rarely does a woman come along who can encompass this double challenge adequately. But Ms Car does more than that as she becomes the character and sings the heart out of the lines written by the masterful Verdi at the peak of his powers.
Kobbé describes as the opera’s “emotional touchstone” Violetta’s plea “Amami, Alfredo, amami quant'io t'amo” which Ms Car sang to its full richness and pathos.
These three singers would have sounded very fine in a large opera house so in the confines of our small auditorium in Sydney the effect was absolutely extraordinary. There were standing ovations on both occasions I attended this season and well deserved. On the other hand, several magnificent moments receive polite clapping from an audience which perhaps did not know the quality and rarity of what they were hearing away from the better known numbers. In the first five minutes of the opera comes the duet and chorus Libiamo sometimes called the drinking song. There is often a whisper of familiarity from members of the audience at that point.
For those into high notes Sempre libera had Ms Car taking the E flat option on both nights, initially nailing a high, sustained and excitingly unhurried ending but clipping the note only briefly on the Tuesday performance. Even if it was transposed down slightly it was still creditable. The tenor also sang his (also unwritten) high C or D flat early in Act 2 as a sustained, accurate and thrilling end to his cabaletta O mio remorso, O infamia. Mr Bilyy also did some extraordinary things vocally, all tasteful and in keeping with the paternal part.
The Moshinsky/Yeargan production was resurrected for the umpteenth time simply because it is so good. Despite the small stage, or perhaps because of it, there is a busy crowd feeling to both first act party and the gambling scene.
Maestro Licata conducted the orchestra with sympathetic tempi, fundamental to the joy of these unique operatic performances.
Notes by Andrew Byrne .. (with some assistance).