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The Crack Magazine


La Traviata at Theatre Royal

Opera North - La Traviata, Theatre Royal

At the heart of Verdi’s 1853 opera is the figure of Violetta, one of the “grandes horizontals” who glittered through 19th century Parisian society, high maintenance courtesans who satisfied their wealthy clints’ need for lust, luxury and fashionable visibility. She first appeared in 1848, in the Dumas novel “La Dame aux Camelias”, loosely based on a real-life relationship. Verdi’s operatic adaptation only adding to her diva status with his music first capturing her restless, pleasure seeking lifestyle before stripping it away to reveal an agonising source. As the back-projection here could subtly hint, it’s Violetta’s lungs rather than her heart that drive her on, with death from that contemporary scourge, tuberculosis, always in sight.  Opera North’s beautifully designed production (brought forward into the early 20th century, so delicious Paul Poiret evening gowns are in evidence) perfectly captures the music’s reflection of a life denied its central core of peace, making the opening party scene frenetically orgiastic by contrast with the enveloping calm offered briefly in the second act. Alison Langer’s Violetta caught the febrile intensity of the role which matured beautifully into the self-sacrificing consideration engendered by her love for Alfredo (Nico Darmanin, a wholly sympathetic vocal partner.) Damiano Salerno as Alfredo’s father provided a stand-out contrast to the lovers’ emotional honesty, managing to reveal the sheer self-seeking manipulation behind his apparently reasonable arguments to destroy the relationship, in a performance where the mask of paternal anxiety barely concealed the chilling control beneath. Of the tragic last act I can only say that tears were (quite properly) shed.

Gail-Nina Anderson