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La Traviata, Bloomsbury Theatre, BargainTheatreland ReviewMy initial thought about going to see this particular production of Verdi’s La Traviata was relief due to the fact that it is presented in English rather than Italian, as I am not too familiar with the narrative and although I had the synopsis written in front of me, it doesn’t quite have the same effect as hearing it aloud.  As the lights fade up, we are gently eased into the performance with soft music and an introduction to the characters through silent acting, which works in engrossing the audience to become part of the performance themselves.

I didn’t initially warm to Alison Guill’s portrayal of the tragic lead Violetta. Whether this is due to where I am sat I cannot be sure, as I find myself frequently looking at her (superbly) pinned bun on the back of her head, which means parts of the dialogue are lost to the music. However, by the end of Act 4, I am willing on Violetta’s survival with the sheer strength of what Guill’s lungs can produce. Christopher Diffey is perfectly cast as Alfredo merely on his voice alone and although at times his body language is a little stiff, this can be forgiven as his lyrics are executed beautifully.

The set is fairly simple and on a large stage has the potential to look sparse, but fortunately the outstanding, slick choreography of all performers creates a warm environment and engages the audience into observing the hierarchy of each act. A particular moment that stands out is the initial encounter between Violetta and Alfredo’s father (Adam Miller), as the uncomfortable relationship is clearly demonstrated from the beginning of the scene.

The actors’ ability to perform La Traviata alongside live musicians, unaided by microphones and in such a large venue is astonishing. Again at times the female voices are occasionally lost, but generally the words are projected almost poetically, yet without bellowing. The musical interludes are at times inconsistent, which results in the presence of the actors onstage as somewhat static, however for the most part the small and talented orchestra must be applauded for presenting a beautifully conducted score, perfectly capturing the essence of each act.

The second half feels longer than the first, despite the shorter running time, although a wonderful aria by Violetta at the end of the piece, which combines both speech and song, is the most powerful climax of the evening and stuns the audience into silence. From the emotional, touching ending into the abrupt curtain call which nearly sent my wine flying onto the person in front of me, I left the Theatre with an extremely positive reaction to Jane McCulloch’s adaptation of La Traviata. As Opera UK’s only current London date, it was a shame not to see the seats filled a little more as the evident amount of commitment and hard work is portrayed in every actors’ performance.

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Reviewed 09/04/2013

By Natalie Green

9th April 2013 (Currently touring the UK)
Bloomsbury Theatre, London, WC1H.


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