WNO’s traditional spring visit to our region began in fine form on Tuesday with a revival of David McVicar’s affecting production of La traviata. Warmly applauded at the New Theatre, Oxford, on its first appearance three years ago (with ‘local boy’ Alfie Boe as Alfredo), this co-operative venture with Scottish Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu effaces memories of the modernised version of the opera, unpopular with many, that was toured by WNO during two decades.

The tone is undeniably gloomy (hardly surprising in view of the story line), with Tanya McCallin’s decor operating on the Fordian principle that you can have any colour you like, provided it’s black. True, there’s white and grey and very occasional splashes of pastel shades too, but the overall impression is of dark, suffocating, funeral-draped melancholy for Verdi’s only opera set entirely indoors.

The candle-lit, champagne-strewn splendour of Violetta’s apartment in Act I presents a raffish, moneyed milieu wherein the courtesan meets her eager young admirer, soon to be lover, Alfredo. McVicar (his work now interpreted by revival director Marie Lambert) handles these crowd scenes exceptionally well, as we see again during Flora’s party in Act II, with its calamitous showdown between the lovers, now estranged through the outrageous interference of Alfredo’s father (Jason Howard, on top form). Both festive gatherings feature fine work — in terms of movement as well as vocally — from the acclaimed WNO chorus.

The early departure from the tour of Mexican tenor Carlos Osuna presented the role of Alfredo to an admirable substitute in the shape of the Italian-American Leonardo Capalbo. The rapport he has built up with Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury — in superb voice, whether sad or glad — is clear, and wonderful to behold.

But this is not a night on which only one woman shines. In the pit, in firm control of the WNO orchestra, is Julia Jones, in a welcome first-time outing with the company, having forged a considerable name for herself in continental Europe. Despite her name, and a welcome ‘home’ in the programme from WNO artistic director David Pountney, this able conductor in fact hails from Droitwich.

n There is a further performance of La traviata tomorrow night. Tonight and on Saturday the company performs Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. 0844 8717652 (www.ambassadortickets.com/ miltonkeynes).