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Royal Opera House

Richard Eyre’s version of La Traviata is exquisite – striking the perfect balance between opulence and sensitivity. The sheer brilliance and complexity of Verdi’s score demands extreme emotional dexterity and technical precision. It is when Verdi’s challenging music is coupled with such a talented company as this that La Traviata becomes an absolute work of art – a work of art that, in this case, is more than deserving of its reputation.

La Traviata follows the tragic romance of Violetta (Angel Blue) and Alfredo (Benjamin Bernheim). Violetta, after a visit from Alfredo’s father (Simone Piazzola), is forced to remove herself from the equation. This heartbreak plays out during a dramatic confrontation at the ball of Violetta’s friend and ultimately ends in a heart-breaking, yet futile, scene that laments both love and regret.

In her Royal Opera House debut as the tragic heroine Violetta, Angel Blue is absolutely sensational. Her emotional command of each aria and clarity of voice when tackling the jumps in scales and fast tempo is genuinely breath-taking. Violetta’s soprano is characterised by elongated notes that, when performed like they are by Blue, are chantingly mesmerising and seamlessly capture the melancholic suffering of her character. Blue absolutely champions the art of melismatic singing and, in doing so, makes what is an extremely demanding score look effortless.

The highlight of this production has to be Act 2. This Act perfectly demonstrates the nuance of Verdi’s composition and the subsequent interplay between voice, music and drama; there is a stressed insistence on the orchestral accompaniment being of equal value to the operatic performance. Due to this, the music parallels the emotional interactions between Violetta, Alfredo and Giorgio. The music engages just as much in dialogue as the libretto does. There are moments of softness and passion and moments when the tempo suddenly ramps up to match the intensity of the performance – the music is drama and the conductor (Antonello Manacorda) squeezes every last ounce of emotion out of this score. Another of the particularly delightful moments comes in the recitative sections – the voices of Blue, Bernheim and Piazzola are left to literally sing for themselves. The emotive depth of this production is undeniably palpable and makes for a compelling and moving performance.

The unbelievable set and stunning costumes match the brilliant standard of the cast and orchestra. Violetta spends Acts 1 and 2 highlighted by her striking, white gown which stands out against the warmth of the golden and red lighting. The use of colour, such as this, is particularly refined and the designer very cleverly plays with light and shade to add even further dimension to the set. Scene II of Act 2 sees a group of gypsies and matadors dance upon a green casino table – this scene is so full of energy and vigour that it adds much needed comic relief to the relentless intensity of this opera.

This production of La Traviata is a true masterclass in terms of the brilliance of Verdi’s music, the classic excellence of Eyre’s adaption and the unparalleled talent of the entire company. It would be a shame to miss this delightful rendition of an operatic classic.

  • Opera
  • By Giuseppe Verdi
  • Directed by Richard Eyre
  • Cast includes: Angel Blue, Hongni Wu, German E. Alcantara, Simon Shibambu, Benjamin Bernheim, Gaynor Keeble, Simone Piazzola
  • Royal Opera House
  • Until 31 January 2019

About The Author

Editor and Reviewer (UK)

Grace is an English Literature graduate from UCL and currently works for a creative agency, specialising in design and communication. She has a background in the arts, with training in music and extensive experience performing in plays and musicals.

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