Lush ,lavish and opulent this is a superb revival of the glorious 1994 production by Elijah Moshinksy and there was great excitement as it marked Nicole Car’s debut in the role of Violetta.
Shocking and scandalous at the time of its 1853 premiere, the now classic tale of poor Violetta and Alfredo, of Consumption and thwarted true love is based on a Dumas novel. Moshinsky , Yearganand Hall set it in 1877 – so think bustles rather than crinolines and the start of the ‘Belle Epoque’. Yeargan’s designs are themed around the seasons.
Act1 with its wonderful centrepiece chandelier is softly sumptuous and glowing with hints of Chinoiserie . Act 2 has a grey /green and wintery look with the cold garden and bare trees . And Act 3 ,with its wonderful use of Vermeer like – lighting and sense of space with the large windows was also impressive.
Nicole Car – now usually based in Paris – as Violetta is superb. Car’s international career has taken off like a rocket and Australian audiences have been privileged to see her for example as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin , Mimi in La Boheme , Marguerite in Faust and the title role in Thaïs among others with Opera Australia .
In glorious voice in Act1 in the Brindisi (drinking song) she is all bright and bubbly like the champagne she is praising then questioning and amazed when she realises she is falling in love with Alfredo ( ‘Ah, fors’è lui’ – “Ah, perhaps he is the one”). In Act2 she is at first deliciously happy then, with the intense scenes with Alfredo’s father, noble , determined and heartbroken –
Her act2 Dite alla giovine sì bella e pura, – Tell the young girl, so beautiful and pure</em was strong yet delicate and moving and then Car was luminously fragile in Act 3. Her Sempre Libre was joyously determined to overcome her illness . Her strong lyric soprano voice, deftly jumping across its entire range, has a vibrant sombre lower register and is distinctive and opalescent at the top with dazzling coloratura and soaring vocal lines . Car is also a consummate actress and Act 3 is especially heartbreaking as she tries to will her self to live given Alfredo’s unexpected return.
Ji-Min Park as Alfredo is tremendous with an engaging , polished lyrical tenor voice . Audiences might remember him as Rodolfo in La Boheme. When LA TRAVIATA begins he is already in love with Violetta but thunderstruck when he meets her again at Flora’s. He is perhaps a bit awkward at first but this adds to his charm. His volcanic anger in Act2 is menacing .His singing increases in passion as the opera continues and the duets between Alfredo and Violetta in Act3 are rapturous and heartbreaking.
As Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father, Vitaliy Bilyy is at first cold , patrician and implacable with a gravelly menacing voice but ( too late! ) we see his understanding and remorse at demanding Alfredo separate from Violetta.
The minor characters are also excellently delineated . As Flora , Anna Dowsley scintillates . Adrian Tamburini is impressive as the superficially charming but very disagreeable Baron Douphol, Violetta’s suspicious protector, the same applies for Tom Hamiltonas Flora’s deceitful Marquis, and John Longmuir as Alfredo’s faithful friend Gastone. As Annina , Violetta’s loyal and devoted maid , Natalie Aroyan is terrific and Gennadi Dubinsky is a gracious ,compassionate Doctor Grenvil .
The Opera Australia chorus is in fine form .The ensemble in the big numbers at Flora’s is tightly knit and each has a distinctly defined character. The chorus has a delightful time in Act 1 as guests at Violetta’s party and in Act2 Sc2 as ‘gypsies ‘ and ‘matadors’ – much fun , with delightful allusions to ‘Strictly Ballroom’.
Musically under the baton of maestro Andrea Licata the Orchestra is in impressive form and give a finely nuanced performance of Verdi’s swirling,passionate music.
A major night for opera fans there were roars and cheers of approval and a huge standing ovation at the conclusion,richly deserved .
Running time 3 hours (approx) including 2 intervals . Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA runs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre. Sydney Opera House in rep various dates between March 1 – 27 2018