Drawing: Ekaterina Bakanova in La traviata

Ekaterina Bakanova

“One hell of a way to make a Royal Opera debut” is how Tom Service headlined his Guardian article as Russian soprano Ekaterina Bakanova became the talk of the opera world on 4 July.

She stepped in to sing Violetta in the last show of this season’s La traviata at Covent Garden with only hours’ notice and “gave the performance of her life”.

The evening’s scheduled Violetta, Sonya Yoncheva  woke up unwell and by lunchtime was forced to cancel her appearance. It just so happened, Ekaterina was rehearsing that morning at the ROH for her role as Musetta for her Covent Garden debut in Puccini’s La Boheme on 9 July. With only five hours’ notice, she was asked to stand in for Sonya.

She agreed. Apparently she had a ticket for that evening’s performance, so she got to see the show form a much closer vantage point (hopefully they gave her a refund!) She had played the role before, but this was a whole new production and in one of the world’s biggest opera houses.

Ekaterina received a deserved standing ovation performing without a slip. “She had the audience spellbound from pretty well her first notes and her scintillating vocal power… embodied the desperation, dramatic extremity and existential plight of Violetta more completely than any other performance I have seen”, wrote Tom Service.

What better reason to draw a sketch… as if I needed one. This is a quick portrait of Ekaterina  and a drawing of her as Musetta in the Torino production of La Boheme in 2013. I left it with the great staff at the ROH stage door and Ekaterina returned it straight away, signed and dedicated.


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