La Traviata, English National Opera, review: Elizabeth Zharoff is a delight from start to finish

That this production can still give pleasure is thanks to the singing

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The Independent Culture

Peter Konwitschny’s ‘Traviata’ travesty doesn’t get any better on a second viewing. His view is that this is a social drama in which Violetta is the only real person, with the chorus like a hyperactive crowd of George Grosz caricatures given to quasi-sexual cavortings.

His Alfredo – played by Ben Johnson like an autistic bookworm – commands as little belief as he did the first time round: how could Elizabeth Zharoff’s Violetta possibly fall for him, when his response to any kind of encounter is to scamper behind a curtain? 

The second act remains totally misconceived, with Konwitschny introducing the twelve-year-old girl he’s inserted into the libretto as the daughter whose marriage chances are blighted by Alfredo’s misalliance; that Germont should reveal himself as a child-batterer in the course of his duet with Violetta simply compounds the dramatic vandalism.

The final act, in which the lovers draw invisible curtains across the stage to denote Violetta’s approaching death, may work as a conceit, but it undermines the pathos of Verdi’s ending. That this production can still give pleasure is thanks to the singing: Anthony Michaels-Moore’s Germont is nobly sung, Johnson’s Alfredo has sweet poignancy, and Zharoff’s pure-toned Violetta is a delight from start to finish.