As Opera North say,
La Traviata is perfect for opera newbies as well as diehard opera fans.
And I would wholly support this. I guess I would be placed in the middle lane in that I really do enjoy opera, have seen a respectable number of different productions but have yet to reach double figures.
I now wish I’d seen La Traviata much sooner as it’s shot to the top two of my opera league table.
The reason? The beautiful, beautiful music, the powerful themes of love and tragedy, excess and loss. It’s playful and funny, tragic and devastating, it’s everything and quite frankly a little extra.
The ballrooms and bedrooms of high society are a dizzying whirl in the life of Violetta, the most glamorous courtesan in all of Paris. Living life on her own terms, to her surprise she falls in love with the naïve young Alfredo. But this intoxicating romance takes a devastating turn when her past life catches up with her, and she’s forced to sacrifice what may be her only chance of real love.
This love story is one which has lent itself to many a medium over the decades and indeed centuries (cough, Pretty Woman, cough Moulin Rouge).
Love crossing the divide and ducking convention, all whilst challenged by scandal, self-doubt, judgement, status and imposed social hierarchy.
So the plot is strong and Verdi’s score rousing, emotional and, I’m sure, recognisable to many. But with these solid foundations in place, what of the execution?
Granted, this is the first time I have seen a production of La Traviata, but I am willing to take on all challenges when I perhaps blindly say that it was just exquisite.
From curtain up when we’re presented with our Violetta in a writhing state of pleasure and gay abandon, our own voyeurism is reflected back at us by the giant projected eye peeping at proceedings from the rear of the stage.
Like a painting come to life, the colours rich, the movements hypnotic, this opening scene in Act 1 was captivating, as the company delighted us in their depiction of revelry the likes of which Salford Quays had never seen (and I’ve been last person standing at Dockyard on a Thursday…).
Our company, led by Máire Flavin (Violetta) and Oliver Johnston (Alfredo), entranced with their pitch-perfect, breathtaking vocals and our live orchestra, led by Jonathan Webb, simply enchanted as they brought the famous score to life.
We were taken from a ‘will they, won’t they’ cliffhanger of the first act, to a ‘they did’ but then ‘oh no’, to a heart-wrenching final act of tragic resolution. Two hours (with two x 20 min intervals), passed by in mere moments, such was my investment in the company’s performance.
Should I perish in a whirlwind of excess (little La Traviata joke there), I’ll be glad to know I had the chance to see this production first.
But I’ll leave the last word to Máire herself…
And she’s just the lead…
You have one final chance to see La Traviata tonight, 17 November. Click this link immediately for tickets.
But all is not lost, Opera North is bringing two more productions to The Lowry this week with Orfeo ed Euridice on Friday 18 November and Orpheus on Saturday 19 November.
Conductor Jonathan Webb, Director Alessandro Talevi, Set & Costume Designer Madeleine Boyd, Lighting Designer Matthew Haskins, Choreographer Victoria Newlyn
Photo credit: Richard H Smith