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La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi


Royal Opera House / London / Music

If you’ve had it with operatic gimmickry, Richard Eyre’s model production of Verdi’s Courtesan’s Tragedy is for you. The premiere in 1994 was historic on many counts. Eyre had never directed an opera before and wasn’t keen to. Georg Solti, who had long resisted the score as not top-notch Verdi, had finally changed his mind. And the title role of the fallen Violetta Valéry, was in the hands of a Romanian soprano no one out front had ever heard of and whose name no one could pronounce. Well, in classic 42nd Street style, Angela Gheorghiu (our best approximation: ahn-GAY-lah GAY-or-ghee-OOH) went out there a nobody but came back a star. Over the decades, the deluxe design and empathic storytelling have never grown old. This season, we count a half dozen international divas (Lisette Oropesa, Kristina Mkhitaryan, Anush Havhannisyan, Angel Blue, Pretty Yende, and Hrachucí Bassénz) vying for supremacy as the consumptive Violetta. Bring handkerchiefs. According to Eyre, of all his production, this is one of just two that always makes him cry. (The other is Mary Poppins.) —M.G.

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