Drama at the opera

Soprano Elena Dee
Soprano Elena Dee
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La Traviata - Grand Theatre, Blackpool

As if beginning with a funeral and ending with a death wasn’t enough drama for one night, the Ellen Kent production of Verdi’s La Traviata added another touch of drama when conductor Vitalii Kutsenko collapsed in the first act of this most popular of operas, bringing proceedings to a temporary halt whilst he was taken reluctantly to hospital for a routine inspection.

Ironically the often distracting (sometimes ahead of the story, sometimes behind it) and rather intermittent (sometimes not there at all) surtitles above the stage greeted the cast back with the question “What’s wrong?” as if no-one had actually explained to their operator just what was going on.

Thankfully pioneering producer Ellen Kent has gone back on her decision of a couple of years ago and put her plans to retire from touring operas the length and breadth of the country on hold for the time being.

The Ukrainian National Opera of Kharkiv is a surprisingly young ensemble though this opera based on the Alexander Dumas tragedy La Dame aux Camellias is perhaps not the best one to display their combined talents.

That’s because, for all its large cast, it’s largely a three hander – Korean soprano Elena Dee (pictured left) making an excellent and beautiful Violetta, the diminutive tenor Ruslan Zinevych eventually revealing plenty of power but rarely much in the way of charisma or chemistry as her lover Alfredo Germont and Ievgenii Lysytskyi managing the necessary pathos of the misguided Germont senior.

Well dressed, well orchestrated and well staged, it might be to opera what Swan Lake is to ballet but it is always welcome to Blackpool.