Composer: Giuseppe Verdi, this English version by Robin Norton-Hale
Director: Robin Norton-Hale
Reviewer: James Garrington
Based on La Dame aux Camelias by Dumas, La Traviata was first performed in 1853 and tells the story of the love between Violetta, a courtesan, and Alfredo, a young man who has become obsessed with her. After initial rejection, Alfredo is accepted by Violetta until the relationship is broken up by Alfredo’s father, who fears for his family’s reputation. Traviata has long been a favourite for many, and Opera Up Close have given it their usual stripped-back style of performance in their continuing drive to bring opera out of the often very expensive (and, some might say, elitist) world of the big opera houses and make it more accessible to the public, both in terms of price and interpretation.
Squeezed into two and a quarter hours, director Robin Norton-Hale has relocated the opera from France and set it in 1920s United States, and this works very well, with some beautiful period costumes. The set is simple, based around one room which has an air of opulence even though it is decorated quite sparsely, with some effective lighting reinforcing the atmosphere.
The rôle of Violetta is quite challenging, and once she gets into her stride Elinor Moran tackles it well. Opposite her is Lawrence Olsworth-Peter as Alfredo, who may not have the most powerful voice on stage but more than makes up for it in tone and clarity. Words are clearly very important in ensuring that the nuances of the plot are understood, particularly for those who may not be very familiar with the piece, so it is unfortunate that from time to time Robin Norton-Hales’ English translation gets lost due to poor diction. Completing the cast of just five are David Durham as Alfredo’s father Germont, Christopher Jacklin as the Baron and Flora McIntosh as Violetta’s friend, Flora. Between them these five carry the whole opera, and Norton-Hale deserves a lot of credit for the care with which she has moved lines around to accommodate the smaller cast. They are accompanied by an orchestra of just three, led by Elspeth Wilkes on piano with Alison Holford and Christopher Goodman on cello and clarinet. The overall effect is quite pleasing, although occasionally it seems to just lack a little something without a large chorus for some of the big numbers.
Opera Up Close’s style may not be everyone’s idea of how opera should be done, but it certainly seemed to go down well with the Coventry audience at this performance. What it lacks in richness of orchestration, it makes up for in interpretation, and while Traviata doesn’t have quite the same immersive quality as Opera Up Close’s very memorable Boheme, it nonetheless makes for an enjoyable evening.
Picture: Christopher Tribble |Runs until 21st January 2014