La Traviata - Royal Opera House, 11 May 2010 (first night)
One big star - step forward Dmitri Hvorostovsky - wasn't quite enough to give make this umpteenth showing of Richard Eyre's gracefully ageing production twinkle quite as brightly as its last two revivals.
One of the problems was hands-off revival direction that plonked the principals stage front, belting out to the stalls, for much of the evening.
Another was the music. The orchestra played beautifully for Yves Abel - almost too beautifully - and he captured the music's elusively French delicacy and its fragile layering of narrative and commentary. But too much was held back for too long, and the music never seemed to be driving the action. Even the big chorus scenes in the first and second acts had a routine feel.
I had high hopes for Ermonela Jaho, returning for her first official Covent Garden Violetta. She was altogether more assured this time round than on her last minute debut two years ago, and infinitely more touching than Renee Fleming's hard-bitten saloon girl from last year. But at the same time she's lost some of the vulnerability that made her first outing so compelling. Wide vibrato and questionable tuning marred her first act coloratura, a problem I don't recall from her previous performances, but she coped readily with the more lyrical demands of the second and third acts.
Her fellow Albanian Saimir Pirgu has the clean, thrilling tone and good looks to make a superb Alfredo. But he seemed content to rest on these natural advantages without exploring character in any depth. There was little sense he was involved in the drama or reacting to the unfolding events.
At least Dmitri Hvorostovsky's urbane Germont gave the performance a gravitas otherwise lacking. And he's kindly uploaded a rehearsal video to his Facebook page to prove it.