Review: La traviata, Wales Millennium Centre
A man walks slowly across the front of the dimly lit stage which is strewn with autumn leaves. He pauses, picks one up and contemplates it with a melancholy air before discarding it.
He walks off stage.
It was a simple but effective way of encapsulating the essence of Verdi’s La traviata, the tragic love story of the life and early death of the terminally ill courtesan, Violetta.
Indeed, this impressive Welsh National Opera staging of Sir David McVicar’s acclaimed production of La traviata, directed by Sarah Crisp, could be fairly described as being simple but effective. Each scene is beautifully lit, uncluttered and designed to tell the story with clarity and subtle insight.
The staging allows the audience to fully appreciate the beauty of the music and the splendours of the singing. The lavish costumes are also pleasing on the eye.
The fate of Violetta and her lover Alfredo is obviously at the centre of this production, but the complex social and political background is also adroitly highlighted and explored, giving depth and character to the story. The hypocrisy of a society that promoted courtesans while at the same time condemning this form of prostitution is deftly stressed.
The role of Violetta is one of the pinnacles of the soprano repertoire. In this production, Australian-Mauritian soprano Stacey Alleaume gives a sparkling performance that is both warm and lively, impassioned and beautifully judged.
She uses the space given to her by the stylish staging to sing with unabashed freedom. We fully appreciate that for her there can be no absolution without penance.
Alleaume is impressive throughout, but nowhere more so than in the pivotal scene where she submits to the moral demands of Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, played by the Grammy Award-winning bass-baritone Mark S Doss.
Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim, an alumnus of the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artist Programme, gives a well-rounded, deeply-felt performance as Alfredo. He is fearless in his approach to the character, expressing with genuine feelings a range of emotions from passionate love to despair and desolation.
The success of the production owes much to the WNO Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Joel. The overall performance is impressive and the instantly recognisable musical highlights are played with great verve.
In his programme notes, Joel said: “Conducting all these different colours is always challenging, and you are very much dependent on having a great leading soprano.” He certainly had one in Alleaume in this production.
Another delight of this production is provided by the dancers who add high-spirited enthusiasm to proceedings.
It certainly enhanced the spectacle and gave some light amid the pervading gloom.
Orchestra and lead singers come together with heartbreaking intensity in the final death bed scene. Again, it is done with an admirable clarity and simplicity which gives great force to the impassioned singing.
The first-night audience loved it.
La traviata by WNO is on at WMC until 30th September and then goes on tour. Find more details here
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