The saving grace of Ellen Kent’s production for the Ukrainian National Opera of Kharkiv is the Violetta of Elena Dee. She looks as well as acts the part, has the vocal range to encompass the legato as well as the bravura parts of the score, and even recognises a piano (if not pianissimo) where Verdi has indicated one. She is moving in her despair over her enforced separation and final
illness – both “Non sapete quale affeto” and “Addio del passato” are
particularly well sung. The coloratura required for "Sempre libera" appears suitably effortless.
The two main male performers don’t quite come up to her level. Andriy Perfilov looks well as Alfredo but some of his phrasing slithered rather than curved, notably in “Un di felice” and “Lunge da lei”, while his tempo and that of conductor Gheorghe Stanciu were occasionally at variance. Vladimir Dragos as Germont père has a big, not to say stentorian voice, which at times sounded harsh; the pivotal second act duet with Violetta was thereby unbalanced.
Khrystyna Korol makes a real person out of Violetta’s maid Annina. The chorus works hard in the two party scenes. Nadezhda Shvets’ designs put us firmly in the 1850s – but it’s no wonder that Germont thinks the worst of Violetta when her gown in Act Two, Scene One looks more suitable for a Paris soirée than a stay-at-home morning in the country. The bleak curves of the girders in Act Three lour over the simple beds and minimal furnishings which are now the only material things left to Violetta and Annina.