Review: Opera North make welcome return to Nottingham

La Traviata

La Traviata

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Opera North’s triple treat of goodies at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal this week ends in epic fashion on Saturday with The Coronation of Poppea, writes Tony Spittles.

This early operatic masterpiece is in direct contrast to the other works featured in the Leeds-based company’s traditional pre-Christmas visit to the city, which started on a high note with Bedrich Smetana’s charming comedy of true love and trickery in The Bartered Bride.

First staged in 1866, this current production has been updated by a century to just after the Prague spring events of 1968, and seems to have lost nothing in its travels.

A joy from beginning to end, this operetta cum folk pageant (which, for good measure, includes a second half circus interlude) opened the programme on Tuesday, and will be repeated this evening (Thursday).

Another favourite getting a repeat is Verdi’s tuneful, yet tragic, story of the courtesan Violetta in La Traviata.

Party girl Violetta’s world is one of wine, song and reckless abandon, but this is turned upside down when she falls for a young nobleman Alfredo.

Their roles, in the touring version before it headed into Nottingham, were played by two of today’s most talented singers - Hye-Youn Lee as Violette Valery, and Ji-Min Park as Alfredo Germont. Unfortunately, Miss Lee was indisposed, and her place taken by Polish-born soprano Anna Jeruc-Kopec.

Any misgivings that the audience were being shortchanged were soon dispelled with a tour-de-force performance from Miss Jeruc-Kopec who wowed with an unforgettable blend of feistiness and fragility in the role of tragic heroine.

There was an added bonus for local music fans with leading international baritone Peter Savidge, a regular guest artiste with Opera North and visitor to Nottingham, appearing as Baron Duphol (he was also in The Bartered Bride as Krusina) and former Cantamus Girls’ Choir member mezzo-soprano Louise Collett as Violetta’s maid, Annina.

Louise, a former young artist with Scottish Opera, has sung on opera and concert stages at home abroad, and besides her touring commitments is currently assistant conductor with Cantamus’ Junior Choir as ell as being a member of Opera North’s chorus.

Rounding off the musical feast is Saturday’s staging of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea, which is still as compelling as it was when it was premiered in 1642, combining some knockout arias in the story of the infamous emperor Nerone’s consuming obsession with the beautiful Poppea.

This, and the remaining shows this week, all start at 7pm, and further details of tickets, £15 to £60, can be obtained from the Theatre Royal box office on 0115-989-5555, or via the website at www.trch.co.uk

And for those who already have their 2015 diary to hand, Opera North return to Nottingham from March 24-28when their programme will include another chance to see La Traviata.

There will also be two performances of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and a single staging of a must-see double bill - De Falla’s La Vida Breve and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi which features some of his best-loved music as well as exploring the timeless family themes to comic effect.