LA TRAVIATA – Soho Theatre, London.
For those unfamiliar with OperaUpClose, they are a production company who specialise in reviving classic operas in a heavily scaled back way. The beauty of this is that it opens up the world of Opera to those otherwise alienated by it, making it accessible and enticing with reasonable ticket prices and intimate performances.
La Traviata follows the tragic story of fallen woman Violetta, who falls in love with a young gentleman but eventually becomes a victim of her own past. What the 150 seat Soho Theatre lacks in scale, it makes up for in creativity, with a clever orchestration and an inventive use of the space. Using only three musicians, songs like the well-known ‘Libiamo ne’ lieti calici‘ (‘Drink from the joyful cup’) jump deftly from one to the other, supported by a storming that always impress without overpowering the musicians.
As love-struck Alfredo, Robert Bailey is a stunningly powerful young tenor who blasts his way through the audience, figuratively and literally.He roams about the stalls declaring his love for Violetta, played by Elinor Jane Moran. She has a suitably sizzling chemistry with Bailey that is as heart-breaking as it is passionate.
Whilst translating the Italian libretto to English makes the opera more accessible, it also loses some of its magic. The English translation sits awkwardly on the ears, the actors do well to tackle the clumsy wording but there’s no doubt that the seamlessly melodic nature of the Italian language delivers something special that an English translation cannot.
As an entry level opera, La Traviata serves its purpose. Smaller scale productions like this offer more scope in customer demographic, but it is at some cost to the overall effect of the piece. Thanks to the powerfully emotive vocals of the ensemble, these shortfalls can be largely overlooked, but I feel that a modern audience would find the original libretto equally as thrilling.
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By Caroline Cronin
5th August –14th September 2014
Soho Theatre, London, W1D.