Thomas Hampson may not be everyone's idea of a Verdi baritone, but on the showing of today's dress rehearsal, he may turn out to be the best thing about the Royal Opera House's forthcoming La traviata revival. At least he fully inhabited his role, and he sang unarguably well. Renee Fleming and Joseph Calleja both made predictably lovely sounds, but she overplayed and he underplayed, and neither convinced me of any passion for each other. Still, they've got two days to sort it out. The orchestra, at least, sound quite ravishing, and Pappano has introduced a few daring little tricks that prove he understands this score as much as he loves it.
Unlike most of the critics, I really quite like Richard Eyre's 1994 production - it has a traditional look, but there's more to it than comfortingly sumptuous decor. Much has been made of his return to Covent Garden to personally direct it (last year's revival and others were left to underlings). Thankfully, he doesn't seemed to have messed with much. But I was disappointed by the accumulation of stage clutter and pointless action in Act 3, which used to make an eloquent point about the price of freedom with its vast emptiness.
A couple of comic additions had my whole row shuddering with suppressed giggles. Perhaps they were one-off experiments/cock-ups rather than misjudgements, but I will explain no further at this stage in case it spoils anyone's opening night surprise. Just keep your eyes peeled at the end.