La Traviata

Giuseppe Verdi; libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on La Dame Aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils
Opera & Ballet International and Ellen Kent
Sunderland Empire

La Traviata

A courtesan dying of consumption; a young besotted hero of good family; an older aristocratic lover; a father concerned for the good name of his family and particularly of his young daughter about to be married; all the stuff of melodrama and far removed from the 21st century.

And yet… And yet… What about Harvey Weinstein? What about The President’s Club? Is there such a difference between 19th century attitudes to the courtesans, the “fallen women”, such as Violetta, and the way many 21st century men think and behave?

Yes, La Traviata resonates even today. It’s not just a musical jewel from a previous age.

And a jewel this production certainly is. You can always rely on Ellen Kent for sumptuous sets, props and costumes and this production does not disappoint, and you know that her productions will be essentially traditional (often with flourishes, such as a golden eagle in Rigoletto or a white stallion in Carmen). There are no flourishes here, however, but what there is is superb singing and a fluidity of chorus movement which was missing from last year’s Nabucco.

And you won’t find Ms Kent giving the piece a modern setting, as, for example Opera North did in their 2015 production. No, her productions are firmly set in the time the composer and librettist intended.

Verdi saw La Traviata as verismo, realistic or set in the ordinary world rather than the world of myth or history, and this production is as verismo as you can get given the melodramatic nature of the plot and the music.

And what music, what singers! The voices of Alyona Kristenyova (Violetta) and Vitalii Liskovetsyi (Alfredo) blend well together, from the teasing merriment of Libiamo to the pathos of Parigi, o cara, so that when the end does come, we are as devastated as everyone on stage.

Rich-voiced baritone Iurie Gisca, who was magnificent as Nabucco last year, hits the spot here too as Alfredo’s father, Giogio Germont. This is not an easy part because of the two extremes of feeling, the cold anger demanding Violetta give up Alfredo in the first scene of the second act and the contrition of act 3. In the hands of a less sensitive performer this change is hard to accept but Gisca convinces.

Excellent support from the rest of the cast underscored by fine orchestral playing under the baton of Vasyl Vasylenko completes a very enjoyable evening.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan