Ellen Kent produces and directs Verdi's classic tragedy using a full live orchestra and a cast featuring some stunning voices who filled the auditorium with a fabulous sound.
Verdi creates a contemporaneous love triangle complete with nineteenth century disease and lack of cures. The score seems light over some fairly heavy issues in the libretto. The potent mix is intoxicating.
Some touring operas cut corners in order to keep the costs down but that isn't the case in Ellen Kent's show. The striking set of a Italianate-style large house interior with classical features dominates the stage. The cast look resplendent in their lavish costumes.
The production is sung in Italian with English surtitles displayed above the performance space. Enough information was there to keep you ahead of the story but not so much as to be distracting. To be honest, as music fans, we were happy to let the room fill with the marvellous Verdi sound without worrying too much about the translation of every line. It was easy enough to keep track of proceedings.
The live orchestra, under conductor Vasyl Vasylenko, produced a fresh and vivid sound which backed some stunning vocal performances. Alyona Kistenyova and Vitalii Liskovetski worked well together as the lovers going through the many stages of a relationship. Their voices complemented each other well. Iurie Gisca gave the paternal role depth and Iurie was responsible for some splendid vocal performances.
As an introduction to opera La Traviata is a good place to start. That beautiful combination of voices and live musicianship performing a passionate tale was stirring. One highlight was the Brindisi, the best known drinking song in opera. La Traviata was appreciated by the Sunderland audience.
The opera entertainment continues tomorrow (Saturday) with Madama Butterfly which sounds like it will be a cracker. Video link