[Met Performance] CID:196600
La Traviata {488} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/14/1963.

(Debut: Russell Christopher
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 14, 1963
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds


LA TRAVIATA {488}
Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

Violetta................Joan Sutherland
Alfredo.................Sándor Kónya
Germont.................Mario Sereni
Flora...................Janis Martin
Gastone.................Gabor Carelli
Baron Douphol...........William Walker
Marquis D'Obigny........Russell Christopher [Debut]
Dr. Grenvil.............Justino Díaz
Annina..................Lynn Blair
Giuseppe................Lou Marcella
Gardener................Paul De Paola

Conductor...............George Schick

Director................Tyrone Guthrie
Staged by...............Patrick Tavernia
Set designer............Oliver Smith
Costume designer........Rolf Gérard
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov

La Traviata received nine performances this season.

Review of Irving Kolodin in the December 28, 1968 issue of the Saturday Review

Sutherland's Violetta

Joan Sutherland as Violetta will doubtless be a ticket-selling attraction for the Metropolitan, but this will be principally to those for whom her abilities as a vocalist will transcend her disabilities in most other aspects of the role. Where a singer has so much virtuosity at her disposal as Miss Sutherland, there are certain to be many moments of facility and brilliance, even amazement at the arches and parabolas of sound she launches. But they remain elements of a design rather than aspects of a characterization.

Let it be agreed that Miss Sutherland has improved as an interpreter of this music since she made the recording currently on sale. There has been some progress toward lightening the lower register and equalizing it with her brilliant top. The attack is surer and there is less sliding into a tone for purposes of "expression." But by contrast with the "women" she has interpreted here previously - Lucia, who is mad, and Amina, who is merely simple-minded - Violetta is a recognizable human being, with an emotional as well as a medical problem. Some director (Zefferelli, perhaps) has "given" her a plausible pattern of business to do - there was a burst of laughter here, a suggestion of despair there - but nobody can "give" her the ability to express either laughter or despair through the sound she makes with her voice. It is all, alas, too much the same.

Unlike some sopranos who find the first act an obstacle and the rest of the role a high road to a succession of dramatic climaxes, Miss Sutherland revels in the opportunities for florid excursion provided by "Ah! fors e lui" and "Sempre libera," adding a few curlicues of embellishment to those written by Verdi, up to and including a top E flat (it used to be forbidden to ordinary soprani at the Met). But once she left the vocal trapeze and came down to dramatic earth, Miss Sutherland's effort varied from blonde to bland. It has been said of the Italian tragedian Salvini that he could move an audience to tears by reading a menu; Miss Sutherland had much more than a menu to read in the famous fourth-act letter from Giorgio Germont, but it added very little to the urgency of the moment.

None of this, certainly, is for lack of effort or stint on work. But it is in the heart of Violetta, as it is in the blood of Verdi's music, to be mercurial, flushed, volatile, impassioned. Miss Sutherland does not much suggest these things by grace of nature, nor has she mastered not suggest heartbreak, present or imminent, and the angry scene with Alfredo in Act III passed merely as an opportunity for employing another shade of voice.

Much of Miss Sutherland's lack of conviction in this part stems from her inability, or at least her failure, to make the Italian words a meaningful part of the musical sound. When a singer fails to make '"Follie" a reckless sound or "Imponete" a meaningful one, she is merely launching arcs and describing parabolas. All honor to her for the ease and security of her execution, but one throaty gasp of an Albanese, one honest excess of a Callas, one warming surge of a Tebaldi or de los Angeles, or a moment of coquetry by a Sayao conveyed more than Miss Sutherland does with her most melodious exterior decorating.

This was, otherwise, not a Traviata to dwell upon, for George Schick's tempi are as temperate as his general treatment of this score, Sándor Konya must strain to produce Verdian legato from his non-Verdian voice, and Mario Sereni's Germont is more throaty than vocalizing should be. Russell Christopher won attention for the sturdy sound of Marquis d'Obigny in his debut.



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