Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Director: David McVicar
Conductor: Simon Phillippo
Reviewer: Claire Hayes
Welsh National Opera (WNO)’s interpretation of La traviata, Verdi’s story of a consumptive courtesan who sacrifices herself for love, is nothing short of visually spectacular throughout.
Presented as part of its Fallen Women season, this revival of WNO’s 2009 production is firmly rooted in the richly textured and hedonistic world of 19th Century Paris.
As Violetta (Linda Richardson) throws a party to celebrate her recovery from illness, the curtain rises on a scene of striking vibrancy. Only on closer inspection is designer Tanya McCallin’s colour palette obsessed with mourning – a preponderance of black, charcoal, purple and mauve foreshadowing events to come.
Richardson is an accomplished Violetta and she warms into the rôle as she is asked by Alfredo’s father to sacrifice her love on the altar of family honour. Ji-Min Park, replacing the anticipated Leonardo Capalbo, is an endearingly youthful Alfredo but the relationship between the two seems to lack a certain chemistry. They are sometimes stronger individually than in their duets with Park’s finest singing being in the idyllic country bedroom as he expresses his love for Violetta. Richardson’s soprano really comes into its own in her poignantly vulnerable scenes with Alfredo’s father Giorgio, sung with great power and conviction by the baritone Alan Opie.
The sumptuously monochrome countryside setting gives way as Violetta makes the sacrifice asked of her and returns to a Paris even more dazzling than before. The party she attends there is a joyous sensual feast of music and dancing with seductive gypsies and an effervescent bull-slaying matador. But her arrival on the arm of Baron Douphol (Jack O’Kelly) confirms her as a scarlet woman in a dress of the same hue, convincing Alfredo that her betrayal of him is complete.
The orchestra, conducted by Simon Phillippo, is immaculately in-time with the cast on stage and expressively interpretive of the score, never more so than in the tragic closing scenes as earlier opulence is swept away and Violetta lays dying in a darkened room. She is overcome by the convulsions of her disease, supported only by her loyal maid, Annina (a very able Sian Meinir). Richardson’s portrayal is at its most intensely affecting as Violetta finds renewed hope when Alfredo and his father arrive, full of remorse, at her bedside.
However much a contemporary audience might wish otherwise, a woman straying from the conventional path in the 19th Century, even with the most honourable of intentions, can never be allowed redemption. WNO’s La traviata is a vivid celebration of love no matter what the cost and Violetta’s demise is movingly realised and a worthy finale to this richly memorable production.
Photo by Bill Cooper |Reviewed on 12th April 2014