Drawing: Nicole Cabell in La traviata

Nicole Cabell

One often most sought-after lyric sopranos today, Nicole Cabell returned to Covent Garden this month for two performances as the lead Violetta in the Royal Opera House’s latest season of LA TRAVIATA, a role she previously played in the San Francisco production in 2014. With African American Korean and Caucasian ancestry, Nicole grew up in the Californian beach community of Ventura before gracing the world’s Opera stages. After winning the 2005 ‘BBC Singer of the World’ Competition in Cardiff, she made her London debut at THE PROMS the following year and for the Royal Opera in LA JUIVE at the Barbican.

Nichols signed this drawing I did of her as Violetta  at the ROH after her final performance on 19 March.

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Drawing: Maria Agresta in La traviata

Maria Agrosta

Italian soprano Maria Agresta has just finished playing Vioetta, the main character in Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic 1853 opera LA TRAVIATA at the Royal Opera House. After winning several international competitions Maria began her professional operatic career in 2007 and made her Covent Garden debut in 2014 as Lucrezia Contarini in Verdi’s I DUE FOSCARI. She returns to the role of Violetta in Munich and at the Opera Bastille in Paris during June after making her debut at New York’s Met as Mimi in LA BOHEME.

Maria signed my drawing  for me at the ROH after her final performance on 12 March.

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.

Drawing: Marina Rebeka in La traviata

marina rebeka

Statuesque Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka made her Royal Opera debut as Violetta Valéry in Verdi’s tragic opera La traviata in July 2010 and has returned to sing the role for this season. Richard Eyre’s production, now 21 years old returns for its twelfth revival of Verdi’s dramatically gripping and gloriously tune-laden tale of socially unacceptable love.

Since her breakthrough at the Salzburg Festival, singing Anai (Moise et Pharaon) in 2009 Marina has been a regular guest at the world’s most prestigious concert halls and opera houses.

She recently sang the role of the high society courtesan at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and was scheduled to perform later in the run at the ROH, but stepped into the opening performances for Sonya Yonchevia who has now joined the production. Her single performance in 2010 was also for a similar reason, replacing an ailing Angela Gheorghin.

The Met review said “Marina Rebeka delivers a devastating portrayal of Verdi’s tragic heroine.”

Marina signed my sketch after the opening night performance.