Operatic triumph at the Milligan

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The triumphant cast of La Traviata

Rye Festival’s classical programme began at Rye College’s Milligan Theatre on Saturday September 13 with something unforgettable. The Euphonia Company’s La Traviata certainly equalled and perhaps surpassed its Cosi fan tutte of 2012. Every aspect was right, and was clearly the result of deep and clear thinking on the part of everyone involved.

The modern dress worked perfectly and allowed Alfredo and Violetta to be visually differentiated at the start from their ultra-casual fellow revellers, the former by a jacket, the latter by a sophisticated cocktail dress. The Euphonia Chamber Orchestra played with exemplary musicality, highlighting Verdi’s genius in his integration of music, singing and action – but the opera succeeds through its singers and here we were blessed: the supporting cast, most still training, sang and acted with sustained excellence, with first class interaction between themselves and the principals.

The three principals did not disappoint. Christopher Jacklin was a more nuanced and sympathetic Germont than we usually hear and Peter Aisher, playing a part assayed by pretty much every great tenor in the work’s history, was understandably a little hesitant initially. He soon fully persuaded us of Alfredo’s youthful emotions and his inability always to control or even understand them.

But the star of the night and plainly a fully fledged star in a wider context ,was Icelandic soprano Rannveig Karadottir. Her Violetta convinced totally; her expressive, beautiful and flexible voice, allied to powerful acting and stage presence, enabled her to present coquettishness, carelessness, indecision, suffering and pathos in a definitive portrait of the central character. Her vocal and gestural intensity in the final scene made Violetta’s death create in the audience the pity and fear necessary to ensure the catharsis Verdi surely aimed for.

Altogether, this was a fully realised version of the opera, the vividness of which will live in the memory, both for its ambition and total success. Everyone connected with it should feel very proud, but especial plaudits must go to the impossibly youthful Alisdair Kitchen, who organised this undoubted triumph, even down to shifting scenery and devising the very visible surtitles. None of this detracted in any way from his musical mastery, which leaves most of us lacking the words to express our admiration. What next – a complete Ring cycle?

Photo by KT Bruce