La Traviata review at Jackson’s Lane, London – ‘youthful energy’
Marie Duplessis, the historical model for Verdi’s Violetta Valery, died at the age of just 23. This makes La Traviata an apt – if ambitious – choice for a small opera company that aims to put young singers in the spotlight.
In Sophie Gilpin’s production – set in the mid-1960s and even discreetly referencing Antonioni’s film Blow-Up – Violetta, her lover Alfredo and their social circle really are people in their twenties. This heightens the sense of youthful recklessness that is a driving force in the opera.
The central role is notoriously demanding, even for a mature soprano. Eleanor Ross initially over-pressures her bright voice in the close-up acoustic of Jacksons Lane Theatre, but she sings with élan and a natural dramatic charge. Her transition from mercurial party girl to loving, but doomed woman rings painfully true.
There is convincing chemistry between her and the Alfredo of Alex Aldren, whose mellow, but thrusting tenor is very much the stuff of romantic leads.
His father, Giorgio, is here a campaigning politician – the second verse of his aria becomes a public speech – hence his determination to protect his family’s reputation. Lawrence Wallington’s vocal line is not ideally rolling, but he is a live wire as a character that many productions reduce to a dull old stick.
The energy of the supporting singers and chorus is matched by their acute responses, and the distinctive colours of Verdi’s score are captured by the 11-strong orchestra.
In this intimate context conductor Sam Evans rightly and thrillingly takes some risks, emphasising the opera’s often feverish momentum. Young though she is, Violetta does not have time on her side.