Why on earth would The Royal Opera wish to put on Richard Eyre’s 1994 production for – you heard it – the sixteenth time? The simple answer is: because this show is an absolute revelation. Bob Crowley’s sets are still awe-inspiring, and from the opening unveiling of Violetta’s salon, it is clear that this is how it should be done. I cried three times before the end of the first act.
As always with The Royal Opera, the calibre of the cast (and orchestra) is immaculate. From the rousing drinking song, “Libiamo”, rendered with extravagant articulacy by the superlative chorus, to the first act’s climactic aria: “Sempre Libera”, the period setting seems amazingly immediate.
And as is proper, the lion’s share of the praise must go to Ermonela Jaho’s powerhouse performance as Violetta. By turns fragile, vivacious, and finally heroic in her martyrdom to doomed love, Jaho’s voice captures it all, with real attention to the dynamics of Verdi’s score, especially in the delicious coloraturas and exquisite pianissimos — she thoroughly deserves her standing ovation.
Charles Castronovo’s Alfredo Germont is well-drawn, achieving emotional heights in his duets with Violetta, as well as in his power struggle with Papa Germont (Igor Golovatenko). Jeremy White’s relaxed rendition of Marquis D’Obigny, a badly-behaved patrician figure, is also a joy to behold. Opera done right can truly have overwhelming power, and this is opera done right. Here’s to the next 25 years.
Catch the live screening in UK cinemas on 30 January 2019 (or the encore on 3 February) where Plácido Domingo will sing Giorgio Germont.