an opera review by Alan Slade – J-Wire
October 23, 2022 by Alan Slade
Read on for the article
It’s always disappointing to walk into the foyer before a performance and read a sign that says one of the main actors isn’t in the performance.
This was the case for the October 22 performance of Verdi’s tragic opera “La Traviata” at the Sydney Opera House.
Internationally acclaimed Korean tenor Ji-Min Park has returned to Opera Australia to repeat his successful 2018 season as Alfredo Germont, Violetta’s unhappy lover, betrayed by her father, in Guiseppi Verdi’s musical adaptation of the piece by Alexandre Dumas “La Dame aux Camélias”.
The notice blandly read, “The role of Alfredo in tonight’s performance will be sung by Tomas Dalton”. There was no announcement as to why Ji-Min Park was absent. When audience members saw the notice, the most common comment was “who is he?” “. At least international star soprano Irina Langu still appeared.
The performance to a packed audience in the Joan Sutherland Theater began with a gasp from that audience as the curtain rose after the opening, sensitively performed by the Australian Opera Orchestra conducted by British-born Australian Tahu Matheson, son of the famous English international conductor John Matheson. .
The blast was a reaction to the beauty of the lavish staging and costuming of Warwick Doddrell’s revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s original production. For traditional (old-fashioned??) opera lovers, the contrast between the classic sets and costumes of this performance and the electronic magic of recent new productions was striking.
The real stars of the ‘Brindisi’ overture were the members of the remarkable Australian Opera Chorus.
“La Traviata” is the perfect showcase for this highly underrated choral group, of which the performance’s alternate lead tenor, Tomas Dalton, is a member. Russian star Irina Langu’s powerful coloratura invoked shades of Maria Callas, including her occasional harsh edges. The program notes mention his early studies “at the National Academy of Music in Veronezh”. A Google search revealed that was not a typo (she also studied at La Scala, not Verona, although she sang Juliet and Donna Anna at the Verona Arena). Irina Lanu was born in Veronezh, a southwestern Russian city near the Ukrainian border. Australian tenor Tomas Dalton very effectively portrayed Alfredo as a puppy in love in the opening scene, although he was unable to match Irina Langu’s powerful vocal output. He warmed to his role as the opera progressed, resulting in well-deserved enthusiastic recognition by audience and cast at the end. Giorgio Germont of West Australian Luke Gabbedy was both vocal and visually impressive.
All of the cast members performed and sang superbly, skillfully accompanied by the orchestra and set off by the setting, which was changed quietly and effectively during the two intervals and the change of scene in Act 2.
Tomas Dalton’s casting reminded this reviewer of one of his early experiences of Sutherland-Williamson Opera’s “La Traviatia” in 1965 when already internationally acclaimed Australian expat Joan Sutherland brought in an unknown Italian tenor to play Alfredo. His name – Luciano Pavarotti. Who knows what the future holds for Tomas Dalton?