FRANK CLIFF Opera North at Norwich Theatre Royal
There were more than a few empty seats for the opening night of a week of opera at the Theatre Royal. A pity, as the revival of Annabel Arden's production for Opera North of Verdi's La Traviata is stunning. It is not much to look at, perhaps, but it has an excellent cast and makes a great dramatic impact.
In the central role of Violetta, the courtesan dying of consumption, Anne-Sophie Duprels is superb. Verdi is fairly merciless in this score with his demands on a soprano heroine, but it is obvious by the end of the first act Cabaletta that they hold no terrors for Duprels: a wonderful dramatic soprano and an equally convincing actress.
Just as fine is Peter Auty's powerful Alfredo and both share the ability to vary the voice widely and capture their characters' changing moods to greatest dramatic effect - nowhere more so than in the deeply moving closing scene.
Glenville Hargreaves, making his first appearance in this revival as Germont, took a little while to settle down before making his mark in the great Act II scene with Violetta.
There were, in fact, no weaknesses anywhere in this splendid cast. And not a little of the success of the evening is due to the Opera North chorus and conductor Richard Farnes, due to take over as musical director in September, who paced the opera so perfectly.
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t La Traviata is performed again at Norwich Theatre Royal on Friday March 5. Box office: 01603 630000.