Many regard Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviatato be one of the most famous and adored operas of all time, though with myself a true novice to opera it was interesting to attend this production by the Welsh National Opera with no prior knowledge or expectations of this opera.
The first act had a clever opening which drew me in from the start and I was soon enticed into the lively life of Violetta Valéry (Linda Richardson) and her admirer and eventual lover Alfredo (Kang Wang), both of whom had strong voices that easily filled the auditorium. With the assistance of a synopsis within the programme I soon followed a simple but effective tale of love, sacrifice and heartbreak – all supported by a faultless orchestra.
As a Welsh speaker I enjoyed the display of bilingual surtitles and I soon found my own rhythm between following the words and watching the performance. I assume some may have had issue with the occasional delay and absence of the surtitles, though personally I relished the chance to follow the story based purely on the emotion in their voices and performances at times. This also gave chance to realise the thorough acting required for each performer on top of their operatic skills too.
Linda Richardson and Kang Wang
Another highlight within the production included clever staging, in particular within the second act, which succeeded in being both simple and highly impactful. When present I also enjoyed the talented chorus who brought a great level of energy at just the right times.
As for general experience, the sense of formality existed throughout. Applause was given before the start of each act and in respect of serval powerful performances, the attire of the audiences was grand, and the show stuck to the traditional three act structure with two twenty minute intervals.
I did worry the intervals would feel excessive in comparison to what I’m used to with theatre. However, I was glad of the chance to reflect, grab a drink and stretch my legs.
The intervals also gave the chance to assess the demographic of the audience for the evening. As I had imagined, seniors contributed for a vast majority of the audience and as a young woman I did at times feel that I stood out like a sore thumb. I’m glad to say this didn’t faze me and rather boosted my enthusiasm for younger audiences to take a chance on opera, both in its traditional and more modern, experimental forms.
For novices like myself I’d say WNO’s production of La Traviata with its simple and relatable storyline and powerful performances is a great starting point into new audiences having a taste of a classic form of the arts.
As part of WNO’s Autumn 2018 tour La Traviata’s upcoming touring locations are Bristol, Liverpool, Birmingham and Southampton.