La Traviata at the Royal Opera House
La Traviata: possibly one of the most beautiful and emotional operas ever written. Verdi completed the score in a matter of mere weeks in 1853, inspired by Alexandre Dumas, fils’s play La Dame Aux Camelias, which he saw in Paris in 1852. The story is based on the life of a real woman, the courtesan and society darling Marie Duplessis, with whom Dumas was deeply in love.
It’s important to mention this context because it shows just how current and controversial Verdi’s opera was when it was premiered. Verdi himself was deeply aware of the timeliness of his story, begging La Fenice – the Venice opera house where the work was first performed – to stage it using contemporary dress. The censors, however, refused. Setting it in the present day would make the staged events feel all too real and too close to the bone for comfort.
The history of this opera makes the Royal Opera House’s decision to stage it in 1850s dress an important one. For another production it might make it feel old-fashioned and out of touch, but here it serves to highlight the revolutionary nature of Verdi’s masterpiece. The staging is complemented by beautiful and elaborate sets designed by Bob Crowley that play with perspective, subtly reminding the audience of the inherent artifice of this theatrical form.
Against this sumptuous background, Russian soprano Ekaterina Bakanova stands out as a stunning Violetta. Despite being a fairly last minute substitution due to illness, Bakanova’s beautiful performance earned her a standing ovation. She acts the role particularly well, allowing her Violetta to tread the fine line between worldly wisdom and innocent naivety that is essential to both the story and the character.
Nicola Alaimo is also perfectly suited to his role as the sententious and controlling father. His steady voice is able to handle the various emotional states of the character, from angry and sanctimonious to consoling and remorseful. Atalla Ayan also performs well as Alfredo, Violetta’s love interest, pulling off his roles as both the happily naive suitor and the humiliated lover with aplomb.
Richard Eyre’s production of La Traviata is one that the Royal Opera House continues to return to, and it’s easy to see why. Subtly challenging and emotionally fraught, it’s certain there won’t be a dry eye in the audience by the final note.
Photo: Catherine Ashmore
La Traviata is at The Royal Opera House from 14th June until 4th July 2017, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for La Traviata here: