Mike Tilling, Arts Correspondent

A Sumptuous And Engaging La Traviata

Alison Langer as Violetta Valéry with the Chorus of Opera North

Photo credit: Richard H Smith
Alison Langer as Violetta Valéry with the Chorus of Opera North Photo credit: Richard H Smith
Have we seen the last of productions where the Director dictates the action and the mise-en-scene? No more leotards, but real costumes for the Chorus? No more lead singers voicing arias into mobile phones? Car wrecks on stage? We need more productions that allow the action to shine through as the composer intended, not shows hijacked into vanity projects.

Opera North’s La Traviata invites the audience to make the connections between now and the nineteenth century for itself. Director Alessandro Talevi’s framing of Verdi’s opera illustrates how much we have changed from 1853, yet how much we remain the same. The themes (love v. duty; sacrifice v. selfishness; experience v. youth) are plainly represented and are still relevant today.

Conductor: Jonathan Webb.
Director: Alessandro Talevi.
Set & Costume Designer: Madeleine Boyd.
Lighting Designer: Matthew Haskins.
Choreographer: Victoria Newlyn
Happily, to engage the fans fully, the singing was universally superb; the orchestra was spot on; the set and costumes were sumptuous.

Alison Langer as Violetta Valéry 
Photo credit: Richard H Smith
Alison Langer as Violetta Valéry Photo credit: Richard H Smith
Violetta (Alison Langer) does most of the heavy lifting, and how well she succeeds. She is on-stage for nearly the whole opera and her voice stays clear as a bell right through to her death scene. In a curious moment, the curtain rises after she has expired with her standing on the deathbed. Were we being re-assured that she had not actually bitten the dust?

Nico Darmanin as Alfredo Germont and Alison Langer as Violetta Valéry
Photo credit: Richard H Smith
Nico Darmanin as Alfredo Germont and Alison Langer as Violetta Valéry Photo credit: Richard H Smith
The role of Alfredo (Nico Darmanin) is thankless: callow youth, jealous lover, ungrateful son. Yet the wonderful Violetta falls for him. How to explain it? The acting range here is demanding since these contrasts must be embodied. Darmanin looks like the kind of young man who could sweep Violetta off her feet and (almost) match her singing.

The plum male role is, of course, Giorgio, (Damiano Salerno) Alfredo’s father. His rich baritone contrasts and complements Violetta’s soprano to wonderful effect in their powerful confrontation in Act 2. Once he has played the domineering paterfamilias, he has to convince us that he is suitably repentant, and paint in the colours of remorse between these extremes.

As usual, Opera North Chorus were superb and here it was not just the singing, but the costumes as well. The opening scene at Violetta’s party, with the singing of a rousing Brindisi, was a feast for the eye (set and costume design by Madeleine Boyd)

La Traviata now stands at number three on Operabase’s list of most performed operas world-wide, having fallen from top spot. Verdi’s music still reaches out to us, and we still mourn Violetta’s unwarranted fate.

Such is opera.

Verdi's La Traviata opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Thursday 29 September before touring to Theatre Royal Newcastle, The Lowry Salford Quays and Theatre Royal Nottingham.
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