Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, conducted by Renato Palumbo, revival directed by Constantine Costi
Review by Saskia Johnson
Walking into Melbourne’s exquisite State Theater we were met with a cacophony of excited muttering amongst the eager Opening Night crowd. As the conductor took his place a complete silence fell over the audience, you could have heard a pin drop as the violins began the haunting first notes of Opera Australia’s grand production of Guiseppe Verdi’s La Traviata.
Staged in 1994 by the late Elijah Moshinsky and revived by Constantine Costi, the production transports its audience to the lavish salons of 19th century Paris. Violetta Valéry (Stacey Alleaume), a beautiful courtesan, hosts an extravagant party where she hopes to distract herself from the looming presence of her fatal illness. During the festivities, Violetta meets her great love, the dashing Alfredo Germont (Ho-Yoon Chung). Naive to her illness, Alfredo offers Violetta hope of true love and a simple life. In true operatic style, with the disapproval of Alfredo’s father Giorgio (Mario Cassi), Violetta fights to actualise her dream as fate threatens to take hold.
From grand orchestral moments of intense drama to understated, hauntingly beautiful refrains, Verdi’s score features melodies which encapsulate the full breadth of human emotion. This is a relentlessly challenging task for any soprano who dares approach the role of Violetta Valéry. It is clear from her very first notes that Stacey Alleaume was born to play the role. Masterfully navigating every difficult passage with control, exquisite musicality and ease, Alleaume was able to deliver a beautifully acted, dynamic performance that was nothing short of faultless. By her side, Ho-Yoon Chung played the role of Alfredo with charm and vigour. In moments of intense passion and emotion, Chung’s voice was often overpowered by both the orchestra and Alleaume. The vital chemistry between the two lovers was never fully realised.
Internationally renowned baritone Mario Cassi brought remarkable strength and gravitas to the role of Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father. Cassi proved his excellence in “Dite alla giovine”, the chilling Act II duet, which, coupled with Alleaume’s goosebump inducing high notes, inspired thunderous applause and calls of “Brava” throughout the audience.
Providing a luscious vocal backdrop, the supporting cast and ensemble were brimming with exceptional talent. Notable standouts were Iian Henderson who brought a welcome spirited energy to the minimal role of Gastone and Agnes Sarkis who stepped into the role of Flora at the last minute to give a performance full of charisma and gusto.
Inspired by paintings of the Impressionist movement, Michael Yeargan’s sets are magnificent, from Parisian soirees to a garden in the French countryside. Combined with Peter J Hall’s stunning costumes, it was easy to forget the rainy Melbourne night outside and become immersed in the elegance of Parisian romance.
Originally adapted from Alexandre Dumas’s play The Lady of the Camellias, La Traviata (‘The Fallen Woman) is one of the most approachable and subsequently one of the most produced Operas in the world. Overflowing with exceptional talent and visual splendour, Opera Australia’s production is an experience not to be missed. Whether you are an Opera aficionado or a first timer, you are bound to be blown away.
La Traviata plays at the Melbourne Arts Centre until 28 May. Find tickets from $75 – $289 here.
The show then tours to the Sydney Opera House from 5 July – 4 November 2022. Find tickets here.
CAST & CREATIVES
Opera Australia Chorus
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