La Traviata, the most performed opera in the world, has returned to Covent Garden in breathtaking style. Richard Eyre’s take on the Verdi classic is a stirring, cinematic triumph which launches mesmerising soprano Venera Gimadieva into the stratosphere.
Our heroine is the tragic courtesan Violetta, clinging to a chance of love and happiness as she coughs up what remains of her life. Gimadieva is captivating, deeply moving and authentic throughout; her coloratura is emotive rather than military and she embodies the character utterly. Her lover, Alfredo, is performed on this occasion by last minute stand-in Samuel Sakker. At first he is positively pneumatic, but he relaxes into the role and delivers a heartfelt portrayal of what can often be a weak, unlikeable character. His desperate, disapproving father is sung magnificently by Luca Salsi; his oaky, mellifluous voice produces a complex, empathetic interpretation of Germont rather than a one-dimensional boor. Flora (Andrea Hill) and Marquis D’Obigny (Jeremy White) inject some enjoyable humour, and Annina and Doctor Grenvil are made interesting but not distracting by Sarah Pring and James Platt respectively.
The tragedy plays out on a series of sumptuous sets: a senate-like reception hall for a frivolous late night party; a country manor which is a sun-spilled, breathing oil painting; a sultry, indulgent gambling hall; and a shuttered, bleak, blood-streaked bedroom. Jean Kalman’s lighting is magnificent, as if pure, natural sunlight was peeking through the windows and streaming through the doors, and Yves Abel commands a sprightly, stirring score.
Engrossing from start to finish, Eyre’s La Traviata, with this outstanding, entirely believable cast, is the finest outing this reviewer has seen in fifteen years. Beguiling and bitter in equal measure, it is an unmissable triumph.
Venera Gimadieva appears in La Traviata at The Royal Opera House 27, 30 Jan and 4, 6 Feb. Rolando Villazon joins the new cast on 1, 4, 7 March. Click here for information and tickets.