The old magic is still at work, in The Royal Opera’s 25th anniversary of Verdi’s tragic opera, originally directed by Richard Eyre in 1994. From astounding sets (Bob Crowley), to intricate and opulent lighting design (Jean Kalman), not to mention the magnificently detailed movement and staging (Jane Gibson), it often feels as if this landmark production succeeds in dramatising not only the text, but the textures of the music itself.
Conductor Daniel Oren ensures that orchestra and cast work together beautifully to eek out all the febrile intensities of the work. In concert with all the superlative musicianship on show, each musical flourish in Verdi’s score is echoed onstage. In a climatic moment in the opening act, rose petals are scattering in time to a conclusive cymbal crash – the effect is aesthetically exhilarating.
Armenian soprano Hrachuhi Bassenz is a wry Violetta, matching superb stage presence with vocal control that brings great poignancy to her elegant vibrato. Fellow Armenian tenor Lipitor Avetisyan is a dynamic Alfredo, with a light and powerful timbre that melds well with Bassenz’s. The supporting cast, including some veteran British talent, deliver some of the best moments of the night. Bass Jeremy White as the incorridgeable Marquis D’Obigny is always a pleasure, and mezzo-soprano Sarah Pring’s thrillingly drawn Annina sparkles, while baritone Simon Keenlyside’s Germont Senior encourages the whole cast to new heights of performative commitment in each of his scenes.
With each cast, this evergreen production takes on new life. This La traviata is never better than in its final moments: Violetta’s final death-bed exhilaration, finding love too late, still draws both tears and raucous applause.
La traviata will be playing various dates across through December 2019 into January, February and March 2020.