The Teatro Capranica has had a chequered career since its inauguration in 1679 within the magnificent Palazzo Capranica, a palace dating back to the fifteenth century and one of the few pre-Renaissance buildings of importance left in Rome, apart from churches of course. Operas were produced here until 1881, when the theatre closed, only to be reborn as a cinema in the 1920s; it continued as a cinema until 2000, but has now found new life as a venue for conferences, interspersed with a most interesting season of operas which runs throughout the autumn and up to the early summer. Nothing revolutionary as it is a commercial exercise, but professional performances by professional singers in full costume with proper orchestra and conductor. La Traviata is the last production of this season.

The production is reduced to the bare minimum in terms of scenes and props, and the stage is very shallow, but anyone who misses traditional opera-house sumptuousness will feel more than compensated by the extraordinary immediacy of the orchestra and singers. The theatre is small, seating several hundred people on two levels, but the scale is that of a large drawing room, and the spectator find himself or herself only a few metres away from the conductor, the orchestra, all at floor level and not in a pit, and indeed the singers, who are just the other side of the orchestra. The sensation is that of a private performance at a rather grand private party.

Production is by Ebe Ciaralli, action being kept economical and the story developing very clearly. The Roberto Bongiovanni conducts the Orchestra Sinfonica Romana with incisiveness and sensitivity, taking the compact orchestra through the score at a spanking pace.

Ornella Pratesi, Violetta, is a young singer of truly exceptional gifts, tall and physically attractive, endowed with a strong and pliable voice, well up to coping both with the passages of extreme coloratura and those of pathos, the combination which renders the role so notoriously daunting. Simon Urbani, Alfredo, is dashing and has a very good stab a very hard role, and Fernando Pasqualetti, is a most professional and moving Germont pre. The secondary roles are all very adequately covered.

Tickets cost between 2035 and are amazing value.

Teatro Capranica, Piazza Capranica 101, Rome. Tel. 06 692 00538 or 339 465 3943 22 April 2006.

Further performances 30 April (18.00), 6 May (20.30), 14 May (18.00), 21 May (18.00) and 28 May (18.00)