By Mel Lynch
This Autumn, the Welsh National Opera has a taken over our beloved Millennium centre, so naturally it would be rude not to check out their latest offerings. Last weekend I was lucky enough to do just that and by the final curtain I was left surprised, captivated and honestly a bit knackered.
Among audiences, La Traviata is one of the most cherished operas of all time, featuring Verdi’s most powerful and evocative music. Split into three acts La Traviata follows the iconic and troubled love story of Violetta (Anush Hovhannisyan) and Alfredo (Kang Wang). The narrative takes place in the city of Paris during the late 1950’s, where Violetta Valéry, a young courtesan plagued by tuberculosis, throws a lavish party in her home. Here she meets her long-term secret admirer Alfredo Germont, who confesses his fascination with her yet never had the valor to act upon it. What ensues is an intensely dramatic onslaught of emotion, challenging the pairs relationship through family politics and Violetta’s ever worsening condition.
The set design is genuinely divine, Tanya McCallin’s serves the audience a visual delight with each scene, where the harshness of the black fittings is perfectly augmented by the lavish costuming. The audience is immersed fully into their world, which was most successfully executed in the party sequences, boasting an impressive number of cast members without feelings of claustrophobia. Another notable aspect of the productions aesthetic was the lighting, undertaken by Jennifer Tipton. The contract of the dark furnishings and low lighting cast an air of both suspense and mystery on the production. Similarly, the contrast worked to consciously draw the audience’s attention to those singing centre stage, with no distractions from brash colours in the background.
It has to be said, the vocals of our protagonists Hovhannisyan and Wang were superb. The moments where they sang in harmony, were truly enjoyable and just utterly awe-inspiring, showcasing their undoubtable talent throughout. However, after an explosive first act, the second felt somewhat anti-climactic. The high standard of vocals remained but it was evident the long scenes of indecision between Violetta and Alfredo, left the audiences’ attention span dwindling. Paired with this, at times the transitioning between scenes often felt somewhat clunky with an occasional lag in the subtitles, causing confusion and broke the immersion quite distinctly.
Stereotypically and arguably sadly, Opera is not regarded as a typical student outing to many. Often one can feel like you need a certain amount of cultural capital to see an opera, yet this one was largely very accessible. I believe a trip to the Opera is a must for everyone to experience at least once, so if you have a spare 2 hours and 55 minutes this October I’d recommend you check one of the ones on a Millennium this Autumn.
Information on tickets: wno.org.uk // +44(0)29 2063 5000