It is one of the greatest operas ever written by noone else but great Giuseppe Verdi. It’s a heartbreaking story of a French courtesan — Violetta Valéry — and her denied love to a young nobleman Alfredo. The whole production takes the audience for journey from luxurious salons of French aristocracy through countryside mansions to lone apartments somewhere in 18th century Paris and is definitely something you won’t forget for a long, long time.
Although knowing it for a while, the first time I watched it was only few years ago in Brighton’s… cinema. It was one of those rather neatly organised live streams from ROH, with big names like Renée Fleming, Joseph Calleja and Thomas Hampson. At the same time, seeing this version spoiled me a bit and I refused to watch it live without a set of magnificent voices. Anna Netrebko was a promise of exactly that.
I have never seen her live but after listening to few of her recordings and watching the incredible cinematic production of La bohème, where she teamed up with Rolando Villazón, I was more than happy to spend a budget of a small African country on the tickets.
Unfortunately it didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped.
Two weeks before the big day I was sent an email from ROH saying that Anna had to withdraw from the performances due to her unexpected foot surgery. Although highly disappointed I couldn’t do much but just go with it. That was until a day before the show, when Netrebko’s replacement called in sick…
It was going to be a trainwreck. At least that’s what I thought.
But it wasn’t. In fact it was a perfect harmony of voices. In the end the role of Violetta was taken by gorgeous (probably one of the most attractive divas I have ever seen;) Mexican soprano — Ailyn Pérez — who “incidentally” is also married to her stage partner Alfredo played by Stephen Costello. I don’t know if that’s what made it so magical, or they are just good performers but it was probably one of the most believable and touching operatic plays I have ever witnessed.
Sure, some of the secondary roles were not as great as in the cinematic play and the stage design was exactly the same but overall it was second best production I’ve experienced in Royal Opera House. Well done.
Finally, if you’re not an opera fan but consider giving it a go, here’s the recording of the version I watched in the cinema — also the very reason why I’ve been trying to catch Renée Fleming performing live for few years now.
I hope you enjoy it.