Review: La traviata, WMC

Culture are on a mission to debunk the myths that make opera seem boring and unapproachable. Vaiva Seskeviciute reviews the dramatic story of La traviata, where the courtesan Violetta’s rise and tragic fall is spellbindingly presented through dance, music and song.

WNO La traviata  Joyce El-Khoury Violetta) Credit Roger Donovan 180Images courtesy of Roger Donovan

A string orchestra, and the mysterious walk of Alfredo opened the scene of La traviata, Verdi’s most famous opera. The tragic story of Violetta, a courtesan forced to abandon her lover Alfredo for the sake of preserving his family honour, was performed by the National Welsh Opera as a part of their spring season “Fallen Women”.

As the play began, it did not take long for the solemn, noisy feast to begin: the power of choir, familiar melodies, and a buzz on the stage immediately grabbed the audience’s attention.

If the first act was based on action, dynamics and positivity, then the second act developed narrative and focused on the expression of feelings. The main characters’ singing their own descants successfully emphasised their individuality; even if they were all together, they were at the same time all alone. Though the second part of act two moved the action to the heart of the festivities, this was where tension and emotions reached their peak.

Act three brought darkness and heaviness: dusky surroundings, dramatic sharp music and stagnated bodies on the stage represented Violetta’s sacrifice. Her painful monologue with God expressed her suffering and pain.

As La traviata has been performed hundreds of times since its premiere in 1853, it is a big challenge to bring a new angle to it that suitably impresses the audience. However, this production gave us dynamic interchangeable scenes that complimented each other well, and kept the viewers intrigued. It was sacrifice versus happiness, dramatic solo performances versus the vivid power of chorus, eagerness to die versus desire to live.

Despite a few long-drawn-out scenes, La traviata met all expectations. Big applause goes to the conductor – as in every opera, he was the engine of success.


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