It was an interesting twist of fate that Melbourne enjoyed two premieres of favourite operas within a week. Victorian Opera’s La Traviata and Opera Australia’s Carmen both centred on their heroines, each with her distinct personality and place in society. Classic Melbourne was alerted months ago by Deborah Humble to the young Australian soprano, Jessica Pratt, who had recently wowed them at La Scala in the role of Lucia di Lammermoor; so there was plenty of anticipation about how she would deliver the quite different role of Violetta Valery in Traviata for this production.
Jessica Pratt simply triumphed in, not just her singing, but her convincing dramatic performance in the role of a courtesan surprised by love and selfless beyond reasonable expectations. Verdi’s opera, with the story based on Dumas’ The Lady of the Camellias, is equally sympathetic to its central female character, (its title “The fallen one” being ironic, or shown to be unfair). The composer gives Violetta beautiful arias and duets to win over the audience, and Pratt did just that. E strano, unaccompanied to begin, showed a range of emotion (as well as true pitch and superbly controlled top notes), but it was the thrilling high notes of Sempre libera that showed the soprano to be a diva with an astounding coloratura voice.
In the Prelude to Act 1, Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra under Richard Mills – beginning with the attenuated strings – gave the audience an early, justified confidence that it was more than able to support the singers in a complex and varied score. Similarly, as the giant mirror gave the appearance of a greater crowd at Violetta’s party, so the chorus delivered the full, harmonious and lively sound one might expect from a much larger group.
The mirror was best for the crowd scenes, less so for the field of flowers – and there was a production glitch as Violetta’s love-interest Alfredo Germont appeared to swarm up the wall for a brief time. There was, however, no question about Alessandro Scotto di Luzio’s ability to do so if he chose! The young tenor was most remarkable for his suitability for the role, in looks and ardour as well as voice. His finest moment may have been the sonorous duet with Violetta, Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo, hopelessly dreaming of an escape to Paris together.
Jessica Pratt was equally moving in this duet, modulating her powerful voice to match di Luzio’s and to suggest Violetta’s failing strength. But equally noteworthy was her scene with Germont senior (Jose Carbo) following his plea for her to give up Alfredo for the sake of Giorgio’s daughter, (Pura siccome un angelo). A highlight of the opera, this saw the principals infusing their powerful voices with the deep emotion that the composer clearly intended. Both Germonts brought a similar strength to the final scene, farewelling Violetta before her death. The soprano matched them with singing that ranged from more brilliant coloratura to the gentle Se una pudica vergine.
Victorian Opera has triumphed with La Traviata, supporting its brilliant principals with strong singers in all roles, and providing a chorus and orchestra to match them in this gorgeous production.
Suzanne Yanko attended opening night of La Traviata at Her Majesty’s Theatre on May 17.
The photo was taken by Jeff Busby
Conductor Richard Mills
Director & Lighting Designer Henning Brockhaus
Set Designer Josef Svoboda
Costume Designer Giancarlo Colis
Set Designer for New Adaption Benito Leonori
Assistant Director & Choreographer Valentina Escobar
Violetta Valery Jessica Pratt
Alfredo Germont Alessandro Scotto di Luzio
Giorgio Germont Jose Carbo
Flora Bervoix Dimity Shepherd
Gastone de Letorieres Carlos E. Bárcenas
Baron Douphol Nathan Lay
Marchese d’Obigny Jeremy Kleeman
Doctor Grenvil Jerzy Kozlowski
Victorian Opera Chorus
Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra