Welsh National Opera
Venue Cymru, Llandudno and touring
October 12 & 14, 2023; 2 hrs 50 mins
This is a tragedy of course, but one with threads of beauty within. From the moment we see, at a lively Parisian party, how ill the heroine is, we know there will be no happy ending.
But La Traviata has a far more nuanced and layered story than that of a doomed romance. Violetta (Stacey Alleaume) has a hedonistic lifestyle under the patronage of Baron Duphol, yet experiences the shortcomings and dissatisfaction of being the life and soul of the party, no matter how she feels.
When she sees the earnest nature of Alfredo's (David Junghoon Kim) love for her, she is compelled to respond and gives up her pleasure-seeking lifestyle for his sake. In being with her, Alfredo must sacrifice his privilege and brings shame on his family – possibly ruining the prospect of a good marriage for his sister. The doomed pair are forced apart by his father, but ultimately reconciled before her death.
The fact that Alfredo’s father Giorgio (Mark S Doss) feels remorse at her death, acts as a criticism for the proprieties society demands; demands that prevent such a love match. God might forgive the purity of her love for Alfredo, but society has a different standard.
Verdi’s music must portray this dramatic and poignant story and of course it does so, exquisitely. There is good reason why this is such a beloved opera; certain arias are joyous, while others are spine-tingling. The opera relies heavily on a strong performance from Violetta, and Alleaume doesn't disappoint. She handles the different vocal styles beautifully while drawing out the range of emotions of her character. She and Kim portray an authentic relationship.
With such an established opera, it is tempting to play around with the setting to bring something new. Thankfully, this production - redirected by Sarah Crisp from the David McVicar original, and conducted by Alexander Joel – stays with a traditional setting, letting the opera speak for itself and also of today. We're not exactly devoid of a class system, and women still take more of the blame for so-called moral indiscretions.
As an overall experience, Traviata is profoundly moving and should be on the bucket list of anyone who wants to explore a range of music. Even in its sadness, it raises a smile of pleasure.
More info and tickets here