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La Traviata

Franco Vassallo, Marina Rebeka and Ismael Jordi in La Traviata at the Royal Opera House. Photo: Catherine Ashmore Franco Vassallo, Marina Rebeka and Ismael Jordi in La Traviata at the Royal Opera House. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
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Richard Eyre’s dependable production of La Traviata, now 21 years old, returns to the Royal Opera for its 12th revival. Verdi’s dramatically gripping and gloriously tune-laden tale of socially unacceptable love – a respectable aristocrat with a consumptive high-society courtesan – was groundbreaking in 1853, not least for its contemporary setting. Eyre’s solid, period staging lacks an equivalent shock-factor, offering instead a satisfying blend of opulence and clear narrative.

Musical proceedings this time around are invigorated by conductor Mark Minkowski, who brings the same crispness and zest for which his work with period-instrument ensemble Les Musiciens du Louvre is renowned, ensuring plenty of Verdian sparkle and poignancy. The ROH chorus initially struggles to keep up with Minkowski’s lively tempi, but the party scene at the start of Act 2 is taut and exhilarating. Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka is the vocal star. Her tall, graceful figure is the epitome of elegance, and her ravishingly creamy voice has both strength and delicacy, as well as crystal clarity and entrancing radiance. Bright-voiced Spanish tenor Ismael Jordi is an engaging Alfredo, although he has an unfortunate tendency to sing flat at times. Italian baritone Franco Vassallo’s Germont starts out gruff and stern, but mellows into a more human portrayal than most, and he delivers a mellifluous Di Provenza il Mar.

There are several cast and conductor changes throughout this lengthy run until July – most notably, 74-year old superstar tenor-turned-baritone Placido Domingo guests as Germont for a couple of already sold-out performances. The hugely bankable production returns again in January.

Verdict
Marina Rebeka’s stellar Violetta and Mark Minkowski’s incisive conducting raise this from a 3- to a 4-star night out
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