For many at the White Rock this was their first encounter with Verdi’s La Traviata and Ellen Kent’s stylish and often beautiful presentation allows the tragic narrative to unfold with simple grace.
The single massive neo-classical setting, with its three arched entrances, works well for all of the scenes, the subtle changes in period furniture giving the right level of class and detail.
Within this heavy interior Violetta’s demise moves from the glare of social events to the intimacy of her private rooms.
Alyona Kistenyova is an impressive Violetta, clearly in charge of the opening party scene and movingly effective when confronted with Alfredo’s father. Her death scene is convincing without becoming too lurid. Iurie Gisca brings out the emotional turmoil of Germont Pere and his singing of Di provenza il mar is particularly moving.
Vitalii Liskovetskyi has a very large tenor voice as Alfredo which works well in the Act Two party scene, where his anger boils over, but seemed rather too strident in the more intimate scenes.
This is partly the problem with the White Rock itself. Not only was the production devoid of its fine drop curtain but the whole cast would be better suited to a far larger venue. It certainly makes the case for Hastings needing a lyric theatre with a proper orchestra pit.
Smaller parts were well cast with Vadym Chernihovskyi bringing warmth to the doctor in the final scene and Zara Vardanean a quietly supportive Annina.
The small chorus are used intelligently and sing securely throughout. One of the real benefits of Ellen Kent’s productions is the size of the orchestra. For La Traviata the strings are particularly important and here there were more than enough of them to make a secure and well balanced impact.
Nicolae Dohotaru’s conducting was well paced though it is a pity the production needs two intervals and a pause between scenes in act two, which holds up the inevitability of the tragedy.
A large and enthusiastic audience showed that there is a demand of high quality performances – now all we need is a venue that can stage them. By Brian Hick.