Doomed love still delights

Picture Credit: Roger Donovan

La Traviata

Welsh National Opera

Birmingham Hippodrome

***

VERDI'S tale of doomed love is an opera classic with all the necessary ingredients – drama, romance, loss, redemption and death with a good helping of lively tunes.

And in the hands of Welsh National Opera this production, directed by David McVicar is lush, beautiful to watch and quite traditional.

That's not to say that traditional is a bad thing. With the storyline of an overblown costume drama, new takes on La traviata don't always work. Keep it within its timeline and dress it up with plenty of posh frocks and it translates perfectly well.

A successful La traviata does depend very heavily on its three lead roles and in this production it took a while for me to be convinced.

Linda Richardson initially seemed a bit uncomfortable in the role of Violetta as a wanton party-goer living solely for pleasure. It was only once she had made the transition to the loving and noble Violetta of the second act that she really seemed to gain her stride, taking us all with her into the conclusion in which she becomes convincing and tragic as she struggles with consumption.

This initial hesitancy also seemed to affect Ji-Min Park as Alfredo although he quickly gained momentum as the lovesick suitor determined to win the hand of Violetta.

Alan Opie has just the right level of gravitas mixed with self-righteousness to play Giorgio Germont, the meddlesome father who is so convinced he knows best that he wreaks havoc on everyone.

Conducted by Simon Phillippo, the WNO Orchestra are thoroughly comfortable with Verdi's music which is a pleasure to listen to.

La traviata, which is repeated on Mar 8, forms part of a trio of WNO operas being performed at Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre this week which all share the theme of 'Fallen Women'. Also in the programme are Puccini's Manon Lescaut on Mar 5 and 7 and Henze's Boulevard Solitude on Mar 6. La Trviata and Manon Lescaut are sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Diane Parkes

 

A classic story of a fallen woman

*****

AT the start of their Spring visit to Birmingham, the WNO delivered a towering performance with Verdi’s classic story of a fallen woman’s life of hectic pleasure,  genuine love then ultimate tragedy.

Everything clicked smoothly into place – wonderful voices and great music in what is considered one of the most heart-rending operas ever written, and there was hardly a dry eye in the house at the final curtain.

Black sets and drapes in the the three acts seemed to foretell impending doom, though the superb costumes provided a welcome dash of colour for the Brindisi, the drinking song at a Parisian party staged by the popular courtesan, Violetta Valery.

Linda Richardson sings and acts superbly as Violetta who appears to have found real love for the first time when the handsome Alfredo Germont arrives and eventually persuades her to live with him in the country.

Ji-Min Park gives a powerful performance laced with passion as Alfredo, driven to fury when he believes his lover has gone back to her old ways, little realising she has been persuaded against her will by Alfredo’s father Giorgio, impressively played by Alan Opie.

The climax, with the lovers reunited but only as Violetta is dying from consumption, is a memorable end to a gripping opera, with music by the Welsh National Opera conducted by Simon Phillippo.

Paul Marston 

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