A year after its premiere in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, acclaimed director David McVicar’s La traviata, has made its way to the North West as part of UK tour. With an entirely new cast, McVicar is making his Welsh National Opera debut which is presenting Giuseppe Verdi’s classic in a co-production with Scottish Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu.
As a Glaswegian, I was sceptical of the results, but my apprehension was quickly thwarted as McVicar’s enthralling display came to life.
La traviata, for those unaware, is a tragic opera in three acts written by composer Verdi, and set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, from a novel by Alexandre Dumas. And although originally set in the 1700s due to censorship laws, Verdi’s opera has now been updated to a more contemporary setting (in the 1900s), like Verdi had originally intended.
The title’s figurative translation is ‘The Fallen Woman’, and is indicative of the journey the audience follows with the protagonist, Violetta Valéry. Violetta, a celebrated courtesan, suffering from an illness, falls in love with the respectable, Alfredo. Unfortunately for her, his father objects to this, worrying that Violetta’s promiscuous past will jeopardize his own daughter’s chances of marriage. Under the father’s coercive force, Violetta leaves Alfredo, and flees to Paris. Subsequently, Alfredo follows her – humiliating her publicly - but as Violetta succumbs to her mortal fate, she and Alfredo are reconciled in heartbreaking fashion.
Utilizing a lavish set design by Tanya McCallin, luxurious scenery, and lighting by Jennifer Tipton, this epic production teleports the viewer to a spectacular era. The intricately formed costumes when presented in the Empire theatre’s majestic building, make this dramatic narrative equally gripping, and immersive at all times.
Alongside this, special note goes to the Greek soprano Myrto Papatanasiu’s outstanding UK debut performance as the tragic Violetta, which manages to evoke a feeling of gut-wrenching heartbreak throughout the duration of the piece. Of equal note is conductor Andrea Licata’s competent conducting, which helps perpetuate the mournful atmosphere, alongside the rest of the over-arching production values.
At times, however, this sombre atmosphere can grow tedious, especially during the second act where the drama meanders to a brief lull. However, by the third act, all of the fledgling devastation reaches a gripping crescendo, which left me, and my fellow theatregoers, suspended in a state of awe-inspired appreciation.