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Thursday, 13 October 2011

La Traviata, Royal Opera House

La Traviata was the very first opera I ever saw, at the ENO, with my mum, and quite honestly I think it ignited my passion for music. Verdi’s masterpiece is the perfect opera, a heartbreaking but believable story, with nuanced characters, and music to make you cry, laugh and dance. I adore it and would never pass up the chance to see a production of it, especially at the Royal Opera House.

We had standing tickets in the lower slips (ie. right up at the very top) but for a mere £9, I felt I couldn’t complain. Instead I spent the 35 minute long first half desperately trying to spot where the empty seats were in the stalls (a trick I’ve used before)... I found a few and rushed down in the interval to claim them. We remained in these considerably more expensive seats for the rest of the performance!

The tragic tale of a doomed love affair, La Traviata is based on La Dame aux Camelias (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. ‘La Traviata’ literally means ‘The Fallen Woman’ a term used to describe prostitutes of the time. Marina Poplavskaya’s voice as Violetta is perhaps not to everyone's taste; my mum isn't a massive fan, though I was grateful for the power and strength particularly as recently I've noticed rather too many weedy sopranos. Strangely this Russian singer performs best in the closing scenes when she is progressively more ill and exhausted, she seems to blossom in this wilted state, and sings the quieter subdued final arias with beautiful tone and impressive control.

The star of the show is clearly evident, Leo Nucci as the father of Alfredo, Giorgio Germont. Nucci received more outcries of ‘Bravo’ than I have ever heard in an opera house. He is a great connoisseur of opera, having made his debut in 1967 and sings with a wealth of experience. His voice is a stunningly rich Baritone, and he devotes himself entirely to the role, singing with emotion and grandeur.

This brilliant production by director Richard Eyre and designer Bob Crowley is fresh seventeen years after its first performance, this revival seems set to just keep on exciting audiences. The orchestra, conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig, brings suitable light and shade to Verdi’s magnificent score.

I’m not sure if I could ever find La Traviata disappointing, just hearing the music is enough to satisfy me. Though this production doesn’t just rely on the wondrous musicality of Verdi, it succeeds in producing an all round superb rendition with a cast of singers that thrill.

Continues until 25 January 2012, book here.

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