By James Karas
Richard Eyre’s production of La Traviata at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden has proven its staying power by being revived fourteen times since its first performance in 1994. Judging by the pact houses of the current performances managed by Revival Director Andrew Sinclair the ROH may be in no rush to replace it.
The revivals are performed by different casts, of course, and a large array of sopranos, tenors and baritones have taken up the major roles. The current cast is headed by Canadian-Lebanese soprano Joyce El-Khoury who gives a stunning performance. (Torontonians saw her as Mimi in La Bohème in 2013 and as Violetta in La Traviata in 2015). She has an exceptionally beautiful voice that can express deep emotion and move the audience to tears. She did superb work throughout the evening but her last scene where she realizes that she is dying and sings “Addio, del passato” she brings the house down. One may add that being beautiful does not hurt her portrayal.
Sergey Romanovsky and Joyce El-Khoury in La Traviata. Photo: ROH / Tristram Kenton
Russian tenor Sergey Romanovsky makes his Royal Opera debut as Alfredo Germont who goes from ardent lover to jerk but repents his misconduct and Violetta dies in his arms. He has a supple and mellifluous voice and sings with ease and total assurance. He makes it sound as if it takes no effort to sing the role. It is and he does commendable work.
Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont gets two unforgettable arias,"Pura siccome un angelo” and “Di Provenza il mar, il suol.” Sandwiched between them is his scene with Violetta where he has to convince the deeply in love woman to give up Alfredo and her happiness. He needs to be moving, convincing without becoming maudlin or tyrannical. Verdi provides the music and Polish baritone Artur Rucinski sings with melodic resonance and conviction. Rucinski first sang the role at the Royal Opera House in 2014 and he seems to have made it his own.
Joyce El Khoury and Artur Rucinski in La Traviata. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Designer Bob Crowley provides dramatic and opulent sets for the salons in Violetta’s and Flora’s houses respectively. Violetta’s salon features a large room with a circular sofa with a dramatic dome. This is living (and stage décor) on a grand scale. Flora’s pad is shock of red velvet where some Spanish dancers entertain the men who gamble in a casino atmosphere. The set in the country house represents the bankrupt state of Violetta’s and Alfredo’s accommodation with bare walls and pictures on the floor ready for the pawn shop.
Daniele Rustioni conducted the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Opera Chorus in this traditional but classic approach to this most popular of operas.