Saturday, 5 March 2016

'La Traviata' at the Royal Opera House

Last week I went to see the most gorgeous production of 'La Traviata', the version directed by Richard Eyre. You can rest assured that almost anything you see at the Royal Opera House will be gorgeous but this production dripped atmosphere from the marvellous sets and costumes, not to mention the astonishing singing. It was sung in Italian so I obviously had to read the surtitles above the stage but the story is easy to follow from the performances.

This was only my sixth ever opera and only my second 'classic' opera after 'The Barber of Seville' last year. So, I'm hardly a fan of the art form but I'm keen to learn. I just need to be careful which productions I choose to see and I definitely chose right with this one - this is the perfect opera to fall in love with.

It's the tale of Violetta, a Parisian socialite who flits from party to party seeking pleasure and distractions and she is the toast of Paris. She has tuberculosis and bouts of illness and, during one of these periods, a young man calls at her house daily to ask after her health. When she is fully recovered she finally meets Alfredo, the young man, at one of her lavish parties and she laughs off his protestations of love, callow youth that he is, since she loves the vibrancy of her life and Paris.

But she falls for him and his love and they move to a country house to enjoy their love. Alfredo has no idea about the world and doesn't realise that Violetta is slowly selling all her possessions to keep them in their love-nest and when he finds out, he's determined to pay her back and heads off to Paris. Very convenient, since that's when his father arrives to beg Violetta to let his son go since she is tarnishing his reputation and hopes for a life in society. After a very dramatic scene she agrees to leave him, although it will break both their hearts.

The scene shifts to a party in Paris with gypsies and matadors dancing on the table, living it large, when in walks Violetta with the Baron, a former lover, where she is confronted by Alfredo who throws his winnings at cards at her as her payment and she faints in shock. Alfredo's father has followed them both to Paris and appears just in time to shame his son for his ungentlemanly actions as poor, heartbroken Violetta is helped from the room.

The final scene shows Violetta on her death bed in penury after losing her money on the day of Carnival in Paris. She asks her loyal servant to give half of her remaining money to the poor since she hasn't long to live. Alfredo, who has been in exile after duelling with the Baron finally returns with his father, having learned the truth about Violetta and how she has always loved him but too late, and she dies in his arms. O wow! Cue massive applause!

It was a superb production and I loved it! A huge tale of love and sacrifice and Violetta is instantly one of my favourite stage heroines. I loved how she is the libertine, the sensuous one tamed by love rather than the man, a strong character destined for immortality. Alfredo is, of course, a fool.

As ever with these grand shows, there are several leads on different nights and my Violetta was Maria Agresta, Alfredo was Piero Pretti and his dad was Quinn Kelsey. That night was Piero's first in the role in this production since the advertised lead was off sick but he did himself proud. I loved Maria, not just a great singer but a great dramatic actress, and I didn't like the character of the dad at all but Quinn did a good job of making him not nice.

The costumes were stunning, the sets were great and the lighting was subtle. The orchestra was, obviously, excellent, and the music was fab!

I loved the gypsies and here they are, dancing on the enormous card table at the party... I'd dance with them any day!

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