Opera North: La Traviata – Theatre Royal, Nottingham

Reviewer: Skylar Mabry

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi

Director: Alessandro Talevi

Conductor: Jonathan Webb

Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata is one of his most famous and most performed works. Based on La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas and premiering in Venice in 1853, La Traviata is about a ‘fallen woman.’ Questioning the divinity of love over pleasure set against a beautiful stage design and formidable chorus, Opera North’s La Traviata is sure to devastate and delight Nottingham audiences.

La Traviata is the story of Violetta Valéry, a young woman living it up in Paris. We first meet her at a party thrown to celebrate her recovery from tuberculosis. This party brings with it one of the most recognisable melodies, Libiamo ne’lieti calici and a confession of love from the young Alfredo Germont (sung by Nico Darmanin) to Violetta. She is thrown by the possibility of a true love, struggling to decide between her life of pleasure and the affection of this man. Violetta gives Alfredo a flower as he leaves the party and asks him to return when it is wilted.

As the second act begins, we learn they have been living together in bliss for three months out in the country. All does not stay well though, or it wouldn’t be an opera. Violetta is confronted by Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont (empathetically sung by Damiano Salerno), in secret, who begs her to leave Alfredo. Giorgio’s daughter – Alfredo’s sister – is engaged, but her fiancé won’t marry her while Alfredo is in this relationship with Violetta, due to her unsavoury background. Violetta would rather die than leave Alfredo, but Giorgio convinces her to leave instead, without revealing the true reason for their parting. Violetta’s final moments with Alfredo bring another impressive musical moment: a ground-shattering request for Alfredo to love her as much as she loves him, accompanied by the full power of multiple timpani drums.

The sizable chorus has its time to shine at another party thrown by Violetta’s friend Flora, which Violetta attends with another suitor of hers, the Baron Douphol. However, Alfredo shows up too, and the fight between the two men for Violetta’s love takes place through a bout of gambling. When Violetta begs Alfredo to stop before the rivalry escalates to full violence, he scorns and shames her in front of the entire party. As she is beloved by her fellow partiers, Violetta is rescued and the second act ends with a dramatic, soul-searching song featuring the entire cast.

The third act opens with Violetta on her deathbed. Fortunately, Alfredo arrives just in time, finally having heard the truth from his father, and the two spend Violetta’s last moments in each other’s arms. Opera North has paired this heart-wrenching scene with a chorus of masked men watching Violetta from upstage, behind her window. As she dies, they clap and jeer in slow motion, evoking the idea that this love was doomed from the start, and that the cruelness of fate will always win in the end.

The desperateness of this ending is made even more crushing by the incredible voice of Alison Langer as Violetta. Throughout the performance, Langer’s light yet powerful dexterity and command of Violetta’s vocal line is continuously impressive. Accompanied by a sea of beautiful costumes, a simple yet effective mixture of backgrounds (designed by Madeleine Boyd), an engaging chorus, and an excellent orchestra, Langer’s Violetta is the icing on the cake.

Verdi’s recognisable and well-liked work is in good hands. Opera North has crafted an approachable and skilful La Traviata, with an undeniably talented cast and orchestra. Whether you’re an opera aficionado or novice, this production will have something for you.

Runs Until 11 November 2022 and on tour

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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