A great difficulty encountered by today’s opera directors when faced with La traviata is how to uncover the real personal drama which lies at the heart of the characters, clearing it from conventional interpretations which wallow in sentimentality. Following this line, director Lorenzo Amato’s production was simple and suggestive, so that emphasis could be placed on loneliness and desolation. To this purpose, the joyful moments in the score, like the dancing scenes in Acts 1 and 2, were rendered in a quite unnatural atmopsphere.

The signature style of the staging was represented by a backdrop through which drops of water continuously fell, like incessant rain as an iconic representation of time running out as our protagonist headed to her doomed fate. Much of Amato’s work was focused on excavating into Violetta’s armoured self (her aria “Sempre libera” is a hymn to egocentricity), to explore her acceptance of the “outer” world’s precepts and the incumbent death’s reckoning. Amato brought his production to the stage with a convincingly clear idea of combining the dream of eternal youth and beauty, that lies at the heart of Violetta's character, with Verdi’s real-life tough conception of a predestined young lady struggling for her life in a hypocritical society.

The scenery by Ezio Frigerio evoked (although in a rather stylized way) a late 19th-century atmosphere, without setting a definite environment, thus giving the production an impalpably timeless nuance which underlined the universality of the human tragedy to be represented. Franca Squarciapino’s beautiful costumes were kept to the story’s specific age, anchoring the drama to a real time and place and relieving it of all possible modern Regietheater trappings. The overall effect was to positively intensify the personal tragedy at the heart of Traviata and save it from any possible risk of soppiness or vulgarity.

Kazakh soprano Maria Mudryak produced a credible portrayal as Violetta, although not as intense and dramatically satisfying as one would expect. She possesses quite a flexible voice, not really strong enough for the role though, which she was able to employ to light up Violetta’s inner turmoil. She could display a natural lyricism to her sound, and in the final act she was impressively thrown between hope and despair. From the reading of Germont’s letter to Alfredo’s arrival, Mudryak switched from one emotional state to another with ease, using good vocal and acting skills to bring about a persuasive interpretation, sometimes reaching genuine pathos.

Tenor Vincenzo Costanzo’s portrayal of Alfredo did not make a strong impression. His performance lacked consistency, despite a naturally warm middle register which he uses to produce a heartfelt sound. Nonetheless his phrasing was not so refined. In his upper register, he struggled to maintain an acceptable quality in the voice, sounding reedy and narrow at times; even so, he was able to show the power of the ardent lover.

Vladimir Stoyanov put in a notable performance as Germont and his singing was of a very good standard. He possesses a warm baritone, with a wide range of dynamic shadings. Yet, his acting was not up to the same standard and his character was both compassionate in his singing and too controlled in his acting. He sang with the indispensable pathos in his confrontation with Violetta, but gave the impression of being reticent in his gestures.

The minor roles were performed in a uniformly standard way. Roberto Accurso’s Baron Douphoul was conventional in his dealings with Violetta and Alfredo. Doctor Grenvil’s, played by Francesco Musinu, brought slight quality to the part with his sober bass. Giuseppina Bridelli did well as Flora, and mezzo Michela Petrino was a fine-voiced Annina.

In the pit, conductor Daniel Oren and the Orchestra of Teatro di San Carlo kept the score going with bare minimum, perhaps indulging singers too much, even in scenes where more passion and force would have been welcome.