Kramer's Traviata Is A Tragedy For ENO
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Making his directorial debut as the Artistic Director of English National Opera, Daniel Kramer delivers Verdi’s timeless masterpiece La Traviata with an intense focus on style, but questionable substance.
The tragedy unfolds in a 20th century fantasy world in which electricity bills are ruinous, difficult emotional conversations are offset by feverish gardening, citizens have to dig their own graves at the moment of expiration, and you’re nobody if you don’t have a pearlescent ball pool installed in your living room.
Claudia Boyle delivers the dizzying big money notes as the doomed Violetta, but there are a handful of flat ones, too. At first she is barely audible, and she never quite fills the Coliseum with sufficient volume, or emotional depth. Kramer impedes his leading lady further by making her crouch, spin and lie around in all manner of unnecessary positions.
Lukhanyo Moyake’s strangled vibrato and awkward movement make him an unconvincing lover; his toe-curling shimmying and jumping up and down would embarrass Tom Cruise. Even the distinguished Alan Opie, who has sung the role of Germont since 1988, is poorly directed here.
Lizzie Clachan’s sets are striking, even brave, veering from a dazzling but overbusy Busby Berkeley-style playground which draws gasps from the audience, to sparse pastoral simplicity, followed by a debauched soiree reminiscent of a Frankie Goes to Hollywood music video. The traditional blood-spattered deathbed climax in Act 3 is eschewed for a shadowy graveyard of mattress tombstones, and as our heroine despairs there is finally a window of spellbinding cohesion.
Ultimately, this Traviata fails to deliver the poignancy and payoff that has been so well executed by Richard Eyre’s evocative, naturalistic production at Covent Garden in recent years, which, incidentally, is sung as intended in poetic Italian, rather than Martin Fitzpatrick’s uninspiring English translation for ENO.
Under significant pressure to produce a box office smash and cement his place as the new Artistic Director, Kramer’s production is too clever for its own good, leaving its audience largely unmoved, thematically bludgeoned, and with a chronic case of sensory indigestion.
La Traviata, London Coliseum, Saint Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, WC2N 4ES, £20-125. 22 March-13 April 2018.
Last Updated 19 March 2018