La Superba: Nicole Car’s triumph in La Traviata..a review by Victor Grynberg

March 2, 2018 by Victor Grynberg
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Since the all -conquering Nellie Melba, Australia  has had an enviable record of producing world-class sopranos for over 100 years.

Amongst the notable ones last century were Florence Austral, Marjorie Lawrence, Joan Hammond, June Bronhill, Marilyn Richardson, Yvonne Kenny and more recently Cheryl Barker and Emma Matthews.

Just some of a long list, but of course the most outstanding was La Stupenda , Joan Sutherland, who together with Maria Callas shared the title of the Voice of the Century.

Ever since Sutherland people have been looking for a new Sutherland. A new Sutherland there will never be. Every singer is different and has unique characteristics. But last night watching and listening to the faultless Nicole Car, I definitely heard my  best Violetta  ever . Dame Joan was well past her peak when she did this role for the then The Australian Opera.

The cast of Opera Australia’s 2018 production of La Traviata at the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Prudence Upton

In the 5th iteration of this timeless Elijah Moshinsky production ( revived by Constantine Costi) Car sang with such faultless ease, with pure sounding notes you knew from the start that this was going to be a very special evening.

As with other great operatic stars today, Miss Car, or as I prefer La Superba ,not only looked the part of the beautiful Courtesan, but acted with such conviction that the whole audience felt her pain and suffering.

La Superba  makes her Met debut later this year as Mimi in La Boheme; a role she has triumphed in before and I can only hope OA has her booked for appearances every year from now, irrespective of what is going to be overwhelming world-wide demand for her.

The story of La Traviata, based on Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux Camelias inspired Verdi to write one of his finest scores with  an outstanding overture and scene introductionsfeaturing  haunting violin solos, all played perfectly by the Australian Opera Orchestra under the enthusiastic baton of Andrea Licata.

Nicole Car as Violetta Valéry in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of La Traviata at the Sydney Opera House.
Photo: Prudence Upton

he great hit, the drinking song, Brindisi , was sung with plenty of gusto by Violetta, her soon to be lover Alfredo (the excellent Ji-Min Park) and as usual a perfectly co-ordinated large choir of fellow party goers.

All resplendently dressed in the period style.

Act 11, Scene 1, has the all-important confrontation between Violetta and Giorgio Germont, the father of her lover. It’s so critical that his earnest desire for Violetta to leave Alfredo for the sake of his unmarried daughter, that anything but an outstanding voice and acting will let the opera down. Fortunately Vitaliy Bilyy, making his OA debut was perfect in all aspects.

The audience always knows its favourites , so it was no surprise that Anna Dowsley as Flora, Violetta’s rival got an extra round of applause.

A strong cast was well served by among others  Natalie Aroyan, Violetta’s ever faithful servant Annina, Gennadi Dubinsky as the caring Doctor Grenvil  and John Longmuir as Gastone.

Special mention should be made, not surprisingly of the singers and dancers of the chorus. In what seems to be a new tradition, the Chorus master, Anthony Hunt comes on stage at the end to share the applause with his group. Very well deserved. Their precision and authenticity would work just as well at Covent Garden or La Scala.

Both in  the opening act at Violetta’s house and  later at Flora’s house in Act 11, where deliberately the director has crowded a large group into a small area, they sing and dance as though they mean it, genuine party goers not just going through the motions in a stiff way.

The final act, Violetta’s tragic death from consumption is performed so movingly, by the 5 on stage, but of course exceptionally by Miss Car.

The rousing applause and immediate standing ovation for her  was what you would have expected after what the audience had been privileged to see.

In the end you walk away extremely satisfied by what you have witnessed, but for all time the glorious music of Giuseppe Verdi and the sensational La Superba, Miss Nicole Car will live in your memory. Do not miss this.

5 stars

This remarkable season for OA has commenced with 5 outstanding productions. OA take a bow.

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