Verdi's La Traviata
New version by Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson
King's Head Theatre
The micro chamber opera is becoming an increasingly popular genre, which simultaneously fulfils three purposes.
First, many people love opera but cannot afford Covent Garden prices. Next, there is another group that would never never get the chance to sample the art form both because of financial limitations and possibly a fear that it is too elitist.
On the other side of the equation, budding young opera stars find few outlets for their talents.
Utilising alternating casts of four with no chorus and a solo pianist, in this case Panaretos Kyriatzidis, rather than a full-scale orchestra, venues like the King's Head are bidding to re-popularise opera with considerable success.
The moving force behind this production, Becca Marriott, is an unorthodox triple-threat. Along with director Helena Jackson, she has created the libretto for this modern take on Traviata. In addition, she is a gloriously powerful soprano who can effortlessly overcome some pretty ropy acoustics and, as these pieces demand when audience and performers share tiny spaces, acts like a pro, especially in this tragically moving role.
The multi-talented lady also courageously belies one's natural expectations of divas. Somehow, it is hard to imagine Maria Callas taking to the stage and portraying Violetta as a lithe pole dancer.
That is precisely the part that Miss Marriott has written for herself in a version that is amusing and poignant, although it is arguably even more melodramatic than the original.
The plot opens with Violetta earning her crust twirling on a pole in the club run by Gemma Morsley's highly commercial and deeply unsympathetic Flora.
There, our heroine fatefully encounters a father and son enjoying a night on the tiles. Sinclair, played by baritone Michael Georgiou, is a politician desperate to maintain a squeaky clean reputation—never easy for a drunken habitué of such establishments.
To compound his potential shame, the putative representative of the people drags along his callow young son Elijah. The tenor, played by Oliver Brignall, falls head over heels for Violetta. Soon enough the couple are happily if impecuniously co-habiting and, in doing so, engendering an inevitable stage tragedy.
For two hours, viewers have the opportunity to enjoy some gorgeous singing, a contemporary story that pays reasonable homage to the original and all at a ticket price that will barely be noticed by the bank, let alone break it.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher