La Traviata at the London Coliseum
English National Opera has had a trying few years. Amid financial difficulties, the board pushed through controversial plans for the company, and this production of La Traviata is the first test for Daniel Kramer in his new role as artistic director. Unfortunately, it isn’t the success the company really needs.
It’s quite common for the big warhorse operas to be presented in staid, traditional stagings that can be revived many times and easily please audiences who are there only to see the classics. This adaptation does not take that route. Kramer updates Verdi’s Parisian melodrama to a strange mixture of eras, beginning with a decadent party – featuring underwear and nipple tassels – where Violetta, the titular “traviata”– or fallen woman – meets Alfredo, who is desperately in love with her. But instead of the quirky modernisation the director seems to have been aiming for, the result is visually overdone, confused and tacky. It then lurches uncomfortably into some semblance of a rural idyll for Violetta and her lover through their escape from Paris, which is interrupted by Alfredo’s father persuading the heroine to leave his son – who comes back to find her gone. We are then whirled back to the decadence of the first act, as Alfredo confronts Violetta at a party. At long last, the production settles on a compelling image for the closing act, as the consumptive protagonist digs her own grave, surrounded by tombstone-like discarded mattresses. Finally, her beloved returns to her – having heard of her illness – and they are briefly reunited before her tragic death.
This lurching, stumbling reworking of an archetypal piece is unfortunately not redeemed by the cast. Claudia Boyle as the leading lady shows off a beautiful sense of line – especially in the third act – but is drowned in the vast space of the Coliseum for most of the first two. She and Lukhanyo Moyake’s Alfredo have no chemistry, their acting feeling wooden and turgid. Alan Opie, as Alfredo’s father, is more successful vocally – but even his performance seems poor. The orchestra and chorus, conducted by Leo McFall, perform admirably. This is a highly flawed production, both in conception and casting. An engaging third act can’t manage to save it, and this poor start may well cause problems for both Kramer and his company.
Photo: Catherine Ashmore
La Traviata is at the London Coliseum from 28th March until 13th April 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for La Traviata here: