The tricky curlicues and fast lines of the first act are sometimes not quite secure for her, and in “Sempre libera,” which brings down the Act I curtain, she exudes vague contentedness rather than bigger, riskier feelings. But even in those opening scenes, she is a warm presence — warm vocally, too, but with a quickly vibrating shimmer to her tone that keeps the sound buoyant and refreshing.
There is no cynicism or hardness to her conception of the role, just the woundedness of a quick-smiling woman who has trusted too easily. Blue’s Violetta is always human-size, even in full, rich cry in her confrontation with Germont, the bourgeois father seeking to tear his son away from a liaison that threatens the family.
She shows restraint in the third act, not milking the music for extra emotion. Her “Addio del passato” was brisk and bleak; her “Gran dio,” angry rather than pleading. The irrepressible Nadine Sierra and the scorched-earth Ermonelo Jaho offered accomplished Violettas at the Met earlier this season, but the sweet, sincere Blue — who lets the tragedy patiently unfold — may be my favorite.
The tenor Dmytro Popov is an earnest, ringing Alfredo; as his father, the disapproving Germont, the baritone Artur Rucinski sometimes forces his seductive tone. In tiny parts, Megan Marino is a sprightly Flora, and, over 600 performances into his Met career, Dwayne Croft (here Baron Douphol) still brings a hearty voice and dramatic investment every time he steps onstage.
Michael Mayer’s vulgar production drags down the opera. In the first act, Alfredo warns Violetta, “The way you’re living will kill you,” which makes no sense if, as here, the opening scene has all the demimonde danger of a Hamptons garden party. And, in this period setting, the visibly contemporary labels on the bottles of bubbly come across as yet more lazy summer-stock falsity in a staging full of it.
But the show is surprisingly bearable with Blue’s tender honesty at its center.