La Traviata at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

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Verdi’s drama of private passions melts the heart in Welsh National Opera’s production.

It does so primarily because Canadian Joyce El-Khoury, making her European debut, fully occupies the central role of Violetta, with magically floated musical lines and seemingly limitless vocal flexibility helping to deliver soaring heartbreak.

It does so because British conductor Julia Jones, already a success in continental Europe but little-known here, galvanises orchestra and singers.

She brings to the production an equal flair in pulsing dance scenes, caressing love music and vibrant passions, securing playing of precision and style, with a notably plangent oboe.

A third element lifting David McVicar’s production out of the ordinary is Jason Howard’s performance as Giorgio Germont, the man who persuades Violetta, the ‘fallen woman’ of the title, to give up his son.

Too often the father hectors and bullies, and the collision is merely melodramatic. Howard gives the character a human heart, allowing him to develop a relationship with Violetta, and that makes their scenes genuinely, dramatically touching.

Paul Charles Clarke, a replacement Alfredo, was solid although not in best voice.

Another performance tomorrow, with WNO’s Marriage of Figaro tonight and on Saturday.