With an upright in the corner and a total cast of eight, Scottish Opera's new fold-up Traviata is Verdi distilled, set to spend the next few months trundling the Highlands, islands and lowlands. It's an intimate take by necessity, but it's stylishly done, well sung and captures much of the opera's emotional essence.
At its heart is a breathtaking Violetta. The young Welsh soprano Elin Pritchard turned heads when she stood in for Carolyn Sampson as Scottish Opera's Anne Trulove in the Rake's Progress last season; evidently the company recognised something of a star, and given free reign as leading lady she is a vocal standout. Supple, husky, beautifully natural in the high notes and seductively full in the low, she has mastered the technical demands of this role – at least when singing with piano accompaniment in a room of this size. She's a compelling actor, too, if not always entirely convincing. Her scenes with Germont père (David Stephenson) were a little forced, but she bravely played the Sempre Libera as a scene bordering on madness and didn't overdo the piety in the third act. Without doubt a name to watch.
Robyn Lyn Evans's Alfredo, dressed as a photographer in square glasses and skinny tie, lacks Pritchard's vocal warmth but plays his hapless, nerdy swagger well. The rest of the cast is strong, and Susannah Wapshott charges through the piano score with stamina of steel and only a slight tendency to hammer the keys. Meanwhile, director Annilese Miskimmon has done a lot with a little production. Set in 1950s Paris, the designs (by Nicky Shaw) give a whiff of the period's reckless, desperate decadence. Clever shadow play adds a touch of film noire – it's a black-and-white world in which Violetta operates in scarlet red. Instead of shrinking the drama, this production draws us inside it.
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