This extravagant production of Verdi’s La Traviata arrives at The Lowry at the end of its run for Opera North, and this last week of shows bursts with the energy of a final hurrah.
Verdi’s La Traviata (The Fallen Woman) has long been one of the most popular operas; loved for its drama, passion, and instantly recognisable score. Just minutes into Act I and the orchestra gets us into party mood with drinking toast ‘Brindisi’ (made popular by the Heineken ads) sung with gusto by Alfredo (Oliver Johnston).
As Parisian courtesan, Violetta, Maire Flavin is alight with passion. All eyes are on her – even through a huge peephole at the back of the stage. She emerges from a sea of writhing bodies on a bed, in a lavish scene of hedonism. From here it is clear there is a huge height from which to fall.
Director, Alessandro Talevi places the action in the Belle Epoque, which while more than a century after its original setting is not so long after the opera’s premiere in 1853. Europe hasn’t yet suffered the devastation of the first World War, and the pleasure seeking in Act I is symbolic of the continent’s golden age prosperity.
Act II takes us to the more relaxed setting of Violetta and Alfredo’s Country House. But here emotions run just as high when Stephen Gadd enters the home like an explosion as the father, Giorgio Germont.
The quieter third act, which sees Violetta confined to her bed with consumption, is less frantic but no less heart-wrenching.
The production is a revival of the company’s 2014 production, which Talevi also directed. He has returned to not simply revive but to refresh, and it does feel like this has been an opportunity to fine-tune and capture the full emotion of every scene.
In this production the principal roles have been double cast, to offer more performances on consecutive evenings. There are also two conductors. On Tuesday the orchestra was led by Manoj Kamps who expertly guides this compelling narrative as a rollercoaster of emotions through music.
It’s a definite catch it while you can experience.