The long tradition of Opera Australia’s annual Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour opened after a year long delay and reminded us why this seminal event is a highlight of the year. Despite having hosted the same opera in 2012 for its inaugural performance, this rendition of the show didn’t feel overpowered by the stunning backdrop of the cityscape and thematically ties into the story in a way that Giuseppe Verdi would be in awe of.
Aboard the floating stage, with a skyline of Paris in the rear, there stands a huge crystal chandelier that captivates attention and grounds the story of the doomed Violetta at the heart of the story. The young courtesan, known for her partying and lust for life, changes her ways upon meeting the handsome Alfredo. However, this struggle between liberation and financial security causes stress for all the characters, and the outdoor venue transforms into this perfect space for the pomp and drama of such a narrative. And in this instance, it delivers.
Set during the 1950s, the inspired costumes compliment the choreography throughout the production, supporting the story and reflecting loudly off the large mirrored floor of the stage. The best part of the show was without a doubt the fireworks, which illuminated the sky and allowed the narrative to transcend the stage during the climax of the show.
Soprano Stacey Alleaume delighted in her debut role, bringing the joy and anguish of Violetta to life and the staging by Constantine Costi makes use of the vast performance space without making Violetta feel insignificant in her own story. Alleaume’s voice soared during the key moments and played to the more dramatic moments perfectly. Combined with Rame Lahaj’s Alfredo, the duos playing off each other’s distinct voices towards the end of the show, delights with every note.
Unfortunately, at times, the sound mixing varied between too sound and too quiet, however overall the key moments were enjoyed within the ambience of the outdoors. Despite this, the conduction was superb and on par with that of the standard opera occasion.
Handa Opera’s biggest threat is often the city backdrop overwhelming the show on stage, but in this case, the bold stage design and powerful performances make La Traviata feel like a show worth watching at such a spectacular venue. Brava!