On Tanya McCallin’s elegant atmospheric set seemingly inspired by Renoir’s paintings, the sumptuously costumed chorus is vivacious as courtesans and their consorts – partying and flirting through the Parisian night-time hours in wanton abandon with excellent fine detail.
Professional dancers and cross-dressing gypsies add to the overall slickness.
Black with shades of deep scarlet, midnight blue and purple distinguish the lustful past from the unrelieved dazzling white of the lovers rural idyll and the plunge into duskiness appositely reflects the final Act’s betrayal and death.
But this is all a backdrop (at times literally) to the somewhat intense and claustrophobic examination of the demise of celebrated escort Violetta. In a commanding European debut Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury overcomes a slightly shrill opening to bring some superb mellow moments but without really emotionally engaging the audience.
With tenor Carlos Osuna absent, Paul Charles Clarke steps into the role of Alfredo. If this is a last minute sub then he does incredibly well, bringing depth to the love duets and death scene but it would explain the lack of chemistry between him and El-Khoury.
The WNO Orchestra is kept under tight control by Julia Jones but at times needs less volume as voices on stage are not always strong enough to compete.
Overall a stylishly visual piece but without emotional verve or impact.