★★★★ | Opera North La Traviata – National Tour

Set in Paris circa 1700, Alfredo Germont, a demure young man falls in love with Violetta, a courtesan, who is the toast of society because of her lavish, debauchery filled parties. But Violetta is dying and despite initially dismissing him, she falls for Alfredo and gives up her lifestyle to be with him. As they move to the country and with her fortune dwindling, Violetta is visited by Alfredo’s father, who is worried about the impact upon his daughter’s marriage prospects as a result of Violetta’s former profession, and he talks her into leaving Alfredo to secure the family’s future. But with Alfredo confused at why his love has abandoned him and with Violetta’s health failing quickly, can love bring the two back together before it is too late?

Opera North has produced a simply sumptuous production of Verdi’s beautiful and heart-breaking opera, both in terms of performance and presentation. During the opening scene where Violetta appears, silhouetted by a full moon, the combination of modern theatricality and traditional opera makes it clear that you are about to watch something special. From the sexually charged ensemble piece of Violetta’s party during the opening, to the ghostly visitations voyeuristically poised over Violetta’s death bed, the director, Alessandro Talevi, provides a refreshing take in terms of the opera’s presentation.

Hye-Youn Lee, as Violette and Ji-Min Parkas Alfredo were well matched in terms of their performances, with Lee providing a sweet and sensitive performance, whilst Roland Wood stood out from the remainder of the cast as Alfredo’s desperate and scheming father. It is only when you hear opera sung live you are hit with the sheer power of their voices, especially as the soaring sounds echoed around the opulence of the Leeds Grand Theatre. The live orchestra sent a shiver down the spine, from the opening notes played by the piercing strings to the swelling crescendos of the closing moments, and sounded exquisite.

Opera is often overlooked by theatre goers because of the perception of it being impenetrable and highbrow, but Opera North have produced a theatrical piece which is beautifully put together, but accessible to all. La Traviata is embedded in popular culture and you will recognise it from the silver-clad roof top bus ride in Priscilla, Vivien’s first opera in Pretty Woman or the story of Satine and Christian in “Moulin Rouge!” Whether you are an opera novice or aficionado, this production oozes quality and has much to recommend it.

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Despite being sung in Italian, the show has surtitles; two screens which provide the audience with details of what is being said. These surtitles are detailed enough to enhance and drive forward the narrative, but do not translate every single word, thereby allowing you to easily understand the interactions of the characters without it ever preventing you from being able to watch the stage and to appreciate the music, staging or performances.

La Travita is currently being performed alongside a two other productions, The Bartered Bride and The Coronation Of Poppea (the latter two being sung in English) which comprise Opera North’s Autumn season and are being performed at different venues around the country, including Leeds, Nottingham, Belfast, Manchester and Newcastle.

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For full details, visit their website at http://www.operanorth.co.uk

About the author: Paul Szabo
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.