REVIEW: La Traviata, Theatre Royal, Newcastle

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THIS had all the thrill of discovering an exciting, hot, new band from the moment South Korean soprano Hye-Youn Lee let rip as the consumptive heroine Violetta Valery.

Quite simply, this is the best La Traviata I’ve seen and, of Opera North’s many memorable productions, I can’t think of many that have bettered this.

Ironically, too many productions suffer from style over substance but there is nothing over-blown about this production. This was wholly about substance, thanks to Verdi’s stunning opera that encompasses love, passion, hypocrisy, reconciliation and ultimately death.

Hye-Youn Lee was superb both as a singer and an actress.

The piece hits you from the overture when we see mutating TB bacteria projected onto the back screen to show the disease that is eating away at 19th century Parisian party girl Violetta.

Violetta’s hookah pipe-induced debauchery comes to an abrupt halt when Alfredo (Ji-Min Park) declares his love for her.

Park, another South Korean star, is tremendous as the love-struck youngster. Add into the mix the excellent baritone Roland Wood, who played Alfredo’s manipulative father Germont. Having been deviously separated by Germont, the lovers (and Germont) are reconciled when Violetta is on her death bed.

It’s a touching, deeply moving finale, witnessed by the applauding ghostly lovers of her past. Like this macabre reminder that Violetta’s pre-Alfredo life had been a public performance, Hye-Youn Lee’s performance stands out as one to remember.