After an absence from Barcelona stages for 12 years, 'La Traviata' is back at the Liceu with a magnificent production featuring the stamp of David McVicar's intelligent stage direction, and the wise and poetic musical direction of Evelino Pidò. It's a period set with set design and amazing and evocative costume designs by Tanya McCall with dark textures and the lush decadence of Paris of 'The Lady of the Camellias', the novel by Alexandre Dumas (fils) that Verdi and his librettist Piave transformed into a great opera.
Jennifer Tipton's dark, soft lighting, like a portrait from the past, underlines the stifling climate experienced by the main character, Violetta Valéry. Through his detailed direction of the actors, McVicar manages to overcome any anachronism in a reading that enhances the inner drama of the great Verdi heroine.
Evelino Pidò ensured the musical success of the evening in his Liceu debut: an old-school master arranger, he's a musician who knows voices, is a master of the keys to Verdi's language, and can pull a remarkable performance from the Liceu Orchestra. Pidò enhances the value of the Verdi song, its sense of drama – the silences lend themselves to the theatrical strength – and dresses the vocals with warmth and a sense of chamber music in the melody.
The cast is full of good voices, without an overblown ego among them. Soprano Patrizia Ciofi shows off her elegant singing in a performance as Violetta that's full of exquisite nuances – very intimate and delicate – although her voice lacks weight in scenes with more dramatic impact. Tenor Charles Castronovo makes a good impression in his own Liceu debut with his impulsive and youthful portrait of Alfredo, sung with taste and musicality, while the powerful voice of baritone Vladimir Stoyanov triumphs in the role of Germont, the father.
Peter Burian has directed an impressive chorus, and a nod must be given to the team of comprimarios. The show, co-produced by the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff – where it made its debut– the Scottish Opera in Glasgow, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Liceu, returns in July to Barcelona with eight more performances to close out the season.