“Ms. Damrau was an extraordinary Violetta, singing with big, plush yet focused sound, taking enormous but well-calculated dramatic liberties during Violetta’s moments of soulful reflection and wrenching despair over her illness.”
“Diana Damrau, a consummate singing actress, was in her element with this characterization. Her pearly soprano and spicy coloratura captured Violetta’s brittle fever of self-deception in Act I; Act III’s “Addio del passato” sounded, appropriately, as if drawn from her last ounce of strength. But Act II was the most original: At the end of the confrontation with Germont, Alfredo’s father, who demands that she give him up for the sake of family propriety, Violetta issues her own demand: that Alfredo be told of her sacrifice when she is dead. Some sopranos make this a plea: Ms. Damrau made it seem like a threat—if he didn’t comply, she would haunt him forever.”
“The evening’s greatest distinction, though, was Damrau. Judging from YouTube excerpts of her past Violettas, this one was fundamentally more evolved: She evoked not pity, but outrage at Violetta being robbed of happiness. Never was there a sense that Violetta was getting what she deserved. Yet this Violetta was not saintly; forgiveness for Germont was not possible.
Vocally, her phrasing choices were marvelously precise, fresh and personal — and all of a piece with her physical portrayal of the character. Though Violetta’s final aria is usually splintered for dramatic purposes (since she’s dying), Damrau masterfully maintained melodic continuity without sacrificing effect. This was acting of Shakespearean caliber, the likes of which hasn’t often been seen at the Met since the 1970s heyday of Jon Vickers and Renata Scotto.”
“Soprano Damrau — who has been featured in Nezet-Seguin’s recording of Mozart operas — has been singing the central role of Violetta for a while, but having monitored her past performance on YouTube, I can say her Tuesday outing was such a leap forward this will be her new signature role, if it isn’t already.
In her finely detailed characterization, vocal lines you’ve heard hundreds of times had fresh, new meaning, sometimes the opposite of what’s conventional. Yet every second rang true.
Her clean, crystalline voice and physical gestures were all of a piece. Unlike so many Violettas, Damrau never asked you to feel sorry for her and had you loving her rebellious outbursts of anger over being robbed of happiness.
This goes to the top of my Traviata pantheon.”