In one of the world’s most loved operas lies a telling reminder. Love and death are timeless themes within, and fate another huge aspect of the show’s lesson. La Traviata, Verdi’s most popular stage work, has married scandal and intrigue in equal measure, along with some of the artform’s most accessible and beautiful music.
With this returning production from Welsh National Opera, Sir David McVicar (with revival director Sarah Crisp) will please traditionalists. With imagery of the mid-Victorian era, its lavish costumes and blackened curtains, smartly gliding across the stage, really stand out. The design of Tanya McCallin may appear drab – even the floor is dark in hue – yet seems to accentuate the characters in the space: it does feel like a ball and a mansion. An elongated table in the next room implied a banquet, the writing desk the suggestion of a bedroom. I have no complaints about the staging, really: it would all work well on tour, I imagine.
Conductor Alexander Joel and the orchestra maintained this familiar score with aplomb. As the agonising overture sets the scene for the tragedy that ensues, a diverse cast sets the scene with some grandiose vocals. Stacey Alleaume is Violetta, the fallen woman: a demanding role, vocally speaking, the opulent character gets many trills and runs, lovingly sung by Alleaume with no missteps.
Violetta’s lover Alfredo (David Junghoon) is a near-perfect tenor, fitting extremely well into the role. The famous drinking aria was effortless and I was half tempted to toast along with the merriment, its chorus another sparkling highlight. Mark S. Doss, as Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont, halts the passions for a dose of reality – the role develops the plot, Giorgio telling Violetta to leave his son forever, and if his bass may have faltered slightly in moments, it always regained itself. Dancers for the party in the second act brought Spanish flavour and a matador with the biggest fake gluteus maximus you might ever see. More fun.
As operas go, La Traviata is quite practical: nearly two and a half hours of music, fitted into three acts and two steady intermissions. My plus one noted the glacial pacing, and indeed Germont coming into the second act sets the plot properly into motion. I’ve seen this Verdi opus a few times and have been happy to come back for more. This production from WNO has some pulling power yet.
WNO’s La Traviata, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Sat 23 Sept
On at WMC on Thurs 28 and 30 Sept. Tickets: £17-£83/£5 under-16s. Info: here
words JAMES ELLIS