Violetta dies, but La Traviata will live forever: an opera review by Victor Grynberg

March 30, 2021 by Victor Grynberg
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Two of the most popular operas of all time are Giacomo Puccini’s LA BOHEME and Giuseppe Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.

Stacey Alleaume as Violetta Valéry and the cast of La Traviata in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s 2021 production at Mrs Macquaries Point.
Photo Credit: Prudence Upton

In both operas, the heroine  (Mimi in La Boheme and Violetta in La Traviata) is already sick with tuberculosis at the commencement of the work and sadly each passes away in the dramatic final scene of the opera.

Opera Australia has chosen to restage the 2012 production of LA TRAVIATA which was the opening of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, and without a doubt, it was a great move. For those who have seen it before, you can never have too much of this particular piece, and for those who have never seen an Opera on the Harbour, it’s the perfect one to start with.

Why will La Traviata live forever? It starts with an incredible Verdi score, with hit after hit.

Early on there is the great drinking song “Brindisi”. Libiamo, let’s drink, sung by the leads accompanied by the very polished chorus and brilliant dancers enjoying a party at Violetta’s Parisian salon. In true Harbour opera style, the final notes of the song are followed by a very exciting and meaningful fireworks display. The very thing audiences need as we recover from the worst of the Covid restrictions.

Stacey Alleaume as Violetta Valéry and Rame Lahaj as Alfredo Germont in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s 2021 production of La Traviata at Mrs Macquaries Point.
Photo Credit: Prudence Upton

Combine the wonderful score with an outstanding production and the longevity of the work is set in stone.

Right from her opening notes, it was clear that local star soprano Stacey Alleaume was in superb form. She certainly had all the glamour of a much sought after courtesan, but it was the magnificent voice that enriched the evening so much. Her early love duet with new acquaintance Alfredo Germont, soon to be her great lover was a foretaste of all that opera lovers desire. Her rendition of the famed “Sempre Libera”, an ode to freedom, was pure magic.

In act 1, the Paris salon scene we can admire the dance troupe, who overcome the sloping stage with absolute precision, as they do in their star turn in act 3.

Similarly, the chorus, dressed in 1950’s fashion, really put their all into enjoying their very liquid-filled evening.

Act 2 is where the real drama starts. Violetta has given up her money-earning life as a courtesan to live with Alfredo in a country home. Tenor Rame Lahaj as Alfredo matches his pin-up looks with a rich tenor voice. This works wonderfully in duet with Violetta. When money problems arise Alfredo leaves to try and raise some funds from his father Giorgio. But it is in his absence that the father (the very good Michael Honeyman ) comes to the house to plead with Violetta to give up his son as the scandal of Alfredo living with a courtesan is stopping his daughter from marrying her perfect match.

Victor Grynberg

There are only limited opportunities for support artists, but they are all well taken. Local favourite the bass Gennadi Dubinsky as the sympathetic Doctor Grenvil always delivers, as does Alexander Sefton as Alfredo’s rival the Baron and mezzo Celeste Haworth as party girl Flora. John Longmuir as Gastone rounds up an excellent troupe.

The flawless production, based on the original by Francesca Zambello has been perfectly restaged by brilliant young Sydney theatre wiz Constantine Costi, aided by Brian Thompson’s set, enhanced by the magnificent 3.5-tonne chandelier and the striking outlines of the Parisian skyline, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tower et al.

This huge production only works so well because Opera Australia has all bases covered. John Rayment’s lighting design is flawless as is the all-important sound design, perfectly blending voice and orchestra by Sound Designer Des O’Neill.

When dancing is as good as this production, you know that the choreographer Shannon Burns has done a wonderful job.

Finally full credit to Harbour special conductor Brian Castles-Onion, who leads the excellent orchestra enriching so much the beloved score.

This was an evening to rave about and to be proud that a local company could stage a “best in the world” performance.


5 Stars


Handa Opera on the Harbour till April 25th

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