ENO’s new Traviata: It’s thumbs down all round

ENO’s new Traviata: It’s thumbs down all round


norman lebrecht

March 19, 2018

The staging is by the company’s artistic director, Daniel Kramer, and it’s a test of his fitness for purpose.


Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph:  Kramer hasn’t fully engaged with Verdi’s emotional drama…. The central confrontation between Germont père and Violetta has no intensity or poignancy, and is stiffly acted. We never sense that Violetta is doomed from the start, or that Germont represents a repressive patriarchy, or that Alfredo is a nice innocent who has strayed over the tracks.

Neil Fisher in the Times: … a disappointing, neutered evening.

George Hall, The Stage: …  a crudely conceived, woefully misguided production.

David Nice, theartsdesk: …This Traviata as travesty isn’t good enough and makes fools of its singers. 

Nick Kimberley, ES: … it all feels contrived, every garish detail underlined. By contrast, the next act, where Violetta and Alfredo find refuge in a country idyll, is unfocused, the singers cast adrift. 

Erica Jeal, the Guardian: …given that Kramer’s ideas include Alfredo doing a cringeworthy puppy impression every time he and Violetta get amorous, I doubt Olivier himself could have made this version of the character work.


photo: Catherine Ashmore/ENO



  • Caravaggio says:

    Looks like a travesty, although not unusual in these Regie days. They should retitle the work “La Parodia” or, since this is the circus that has always been the ENO, “La Travesty”.

  • Opera Lover says:

    Iolanthe, also currently in rep is similarly, an absolute travesty – disrespectful to the genre, author & composer & an insult to the world of opera.

    It seems ENO’s raison d’etre is to pample to the masses, & turn each production into a show, believing it’s what Joe public want?

    Any opera company sold on performing the dubious no operatic musical pastiche wallpaper by Andrew Lloyd Webber, wants disbanding…..

    • V.Lind says:

      What on earth does pample mean?

    • Cynical Bystander says:

      But I thought ‘the masses’ were staying away in droves. Part of the problem for ENO is that it has lost any sense of who it’s public actually is and is stuck in a barn of a theatre Joe Public is not inclined to fill. Kramer’s concept could have been thrown on the stage at any time in the last 20 years, and ENO continues to fiels casts not upto the challenge the composer sets. But as long as the Arts Council provides to underwrite it’s death throes they’ll keep taking the money even when ‘the masses’ and ‘Joe Public’ are giving St Martins Lane a wide berth. And is Verdi really little more than Andrew Lloyd Webber wallpaper?

  • David Conway says:

    I am glad to say that the forthcoming HGOpera production in May will excellently remedy London’s Traviata deficiency…….http://hgo.org.uk/current-opera/

  • Charles Clark Maxwell says:

    Mind you, the Independent did say “Act Three…. cast an arresting and oddly satisfying spell….against huge odds of its own making, this bold reading of the plot works dramatically.”

  • David says:

    Hmm …
    Bit of Fake News here?

    You left out the heading of Kimberly’s review
    “Violetta’s tragedy gradually finds its formidable focus”

    and the continuation of what you quoted above:

    “Only in the final act, when Kramer has Violetta dig her own grave, do we finally feel the horrified sympathy that Verdi demands. Claudia Boyle’s Violetta at last becomes a real person, even as her life ebbs away. “

  • Will says:

    You have to take risks to make art. Sometimes those pay off (Iolanthe generally well received) and sometimes they don’t, as seems to be the case here. ENO isn’t about playing it safe, that’s not what it is for. But with risk taking comes the risk of failure, just par for the course. We shouldn’t rush to trash a company on the back of one production.

    • Cynical Bystander says:

      Think if it were only one production. ENO has been given more chances to put itself on the right track and it seems that yet again they have allowed themselves to be derailed. Maybe the critics are wrong and the paying audience will see virtues in this production lost on them but as a company they have long ago squandered what little goodwill they had left. Not least because more than all other UK companies they have proved somewhat inept at taking risks underwritten by other people’s money that have failed, and failed spectacularly.

    • Al says:

      But this is an important production because it is by the new Artistic Director. This above any production this season should not be a dud.

    • David Hilton says:

      “You have to take risks to make art.” No you don’t. Zeffirelli never took a risk.

    • Stephen Diviani says:

      I agree totally with your first sentence. The problem here, as the great Stuart Skelton stated in a bachtrack interview, is Kramer’s appointment as Artistic Director. Anyway, that issue aside, there are a number of other difficulties for ENO: a) that they have to play in a theatre with more seats to fill than the ROH; b) they have upped their prices – as a result of funding cuts – to a ridiculous extent, which puts off a lot of potential punters; c) they have, by their Charter (?), to perform operas in English translation when they need surtitles because nobody can hear the words anyway. Still, reading through the new ROH 2018/19 season was pretty dispiriting, given its tameness and absences: talk about running scared!

  • Marjie says:

    Australians and tourists can enjoy a superb performance of Traviata at the Sydney Opera House, with the rising star Nicole Carr in tremendous voice. No regie in this version!