OperaUpClose has done exceedingly well with its own production of Verdi’s opera La Traviata, which had moved from the back of the King’s Head pub to Soho Theatre. Now it has landed at the 235-seater Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, giving its director, Robin Norton-Hale more legroom for the audience to absorb the tragic tale of Violetta, the fallen woman.
The production is not sung in Italian nor does it include every musical detail as composed by the 19th century Italian mastermind, however it is delivered in a way that deserves its own praise. It’s a reduced show, set in America during the prohibition era of the 1920s. An ornate gramophone, dazzling sequin dresses, whisky decanters and slick back hair ingratiate the stage.
An English libretto allows for audiences to relate to the story of opera and, only just does, the story stay the same as the original. Here, Violetta isn’t a high-class prostitute but a woman with a terrible past. To add to the intoxicated atmosphere, proliferation of speakeasies and blurring of identities, Germont, Alfredo’s father, meets Violetta in awkward circumstances at the beginning of the opera, flirting with Violetta’s friend, Flora and drinking as much as he can compared to the original opera where he walks in uninvited in Act II as a self-righteous father who puts the needs of his children first.
Yet the biggest difference is the number of stage performers involved. There’s only five in the cast and three instrumentalists as opposed to a lofty orchestra and vast chorus group, yet OperaUpClose pulls it off, enough to make audiences engage with the piece, fall for the cast’s voices and become engrossed in Verdi’s music.
It seems that a lot can be achieved with less instruments. More solos, more sorrow and particular focus on the fragile state of Violetta and the heartbreak felt from the characters around her. Pianist and musical director (Alex Beetschen), clarinetist (Chris Goodman) and cellist (Will Rudge) provide this by giving a sensitive and sentimental performance of Verdi’s most loved music.
Lawrence Olsworth-Peter sings softly and sweetly as Alfredo. He portrays Alfredo as shy, sweet and naïve at the outset, but as we get more into the opera, Olsworth-Peter develops Alfredo’s character that eventually turns into a man by the end, when it’s too late. David Durham’s Germont is an austere politician who is unfriendly to Violetta but we see moments of virtue when he sees Alfredo embarrass Violetta towards the end, dashing money to her feet, as he sings “my son would not do such a thing”. Flora McIntosh has a charming mezzo voice and matches Violetta as a true confidant and honest friend. And Dario Dugandzic, as both the baron and doctor, has a rich and impressively seductive voice. I would have liked to hear more from him.
Yet the winning spot goes to Prudence Sanders for her bedazzling voice and marvelous acting as the dying heroine. She captivates the audience with her fine pitch, and never falters on reaching Violetta’s high notes. The Tricycle Theatre is a perfect venue for the production. It draws in intimacy from the audience, which a dramatic opera like La Traviata needs.
Review By Mary Nguygen
Olivier Award-winning company OperaUpClose and director/translator Robin Norton-Hale bring their critically acclaimed English version of La Traviata to the Tricycle Theatre.
The story of Violetta, a so-called ‘fallen woman’ who sacrifices her own happiness for the sake of her lover’s family and future, this production is set in the 1920s underworld of speakeasies and bootlegging and reveals the hypocrisy and heartache behind the glittering façade of parties.
With Verdi’s much-loved melodies orchestrated for a trio of clarinet, cello and piano by composer Harry Blake, this La Traviata will serenade you, seduce you, and break your heart.
Monday 22 June 2015 – Saturday 4 July 2015
Evening Performances begin at 7.30pm
(Excluding Tue 23 June which starts at 7pm)
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Thursday 25th June 2015