Theatre in Wales

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THE WORLD’S FAVOURITE OPERA !

La Traviata

Welsh National Opera , Wales Millennium Centre , September-21-18
La Traviata by Welsh National Opera Opera is about music and singing. In this revival of one of the grandest of Grand Operas the excellence of the Welsh National Opera orchestra, under the deft and skilful leadership of conductor James Southall fills the hall and our hearts with the captivating opening sounds of Verdi’s engaging overture.

In England they may be suffering under the staid reign of Queen Victoria but we are in Paris and we are here to have fun. Strong bursts from the orchestra, the scarlet, heavy drapes rise and the wonderful sound of the WNO chorus in full voice fills the auditorium. It’s a party! The courtesans and their beaus are in full voice and there is magic in the air. The famed courtesan Violetta has thrown the lavish party to celebrate her recovery from consumption. Returning to the WNO soprano Linda Richardson is in fine voice with a delightful coloratura, she takes us, very movingly through the whole gamut of emotions as her story progresses. But first there is more drinking to be done and our leading man, Alfredo raises his glass and gives us the famous drinking song, “Lets drink from the joyful cups”.

Australian-Chinese tenor Kang Wang has such a fine and moving voice it’s hard to believe that only back in 2017 he was a finalist in Cardiff’s singer of the world completion. Alfredo has been a long time admirer of Violetta. His friend Gaston, WNO regular Howard Kirk, introduces Alfredo to Violetta telling her of his great concern for her illness. Soon the partygoers leave and Violetta and Alfredo are left on the stage together. He sings of his love for her and we feel his pain. She gives him a rose as he leaves. Alone on the stage Richardson’s beautiful and powerful voice embraces us with her hopes for Alfredo’s continuing love.

Soon they have set up house together, on the outskirts of Paris. Their reverie is soon interrupted.
Alfredo’s father visits her and demands she ends the relationship. Roland Wood’s commanding baritone tells us he means business. She reluctantly agrees. Alfredo returns. With sadness and tears in her voice she reasserts her love and she draws a great wave of sympathy out of us.

We are back at a party in Paris. Before our tragic story continues we are entertained by Andrew George’s cleverly choreographed, exciting dancing accompanied by more full voiced chorus singing of gypsy girls and handsome matadors.

Violetta comes into the party with her former lover, Baron Douphol. James Cleverton’s clear baritone has a touch of menace in it that is clearly threatening. Alfredo’s mind is in a spin. He humiliates Violetta and throws his gambling winnings at her feet. Again she sings still with power although her illness has returned and she is weakening.

She has now taken to her bed, she knows she is dying. There is a great sadness in her final aria "Farewell, lovely, happy dreams of the past"). We share in the intense experience of this iconic death scene.As Alfredo returns and joins her at her bedside I almost felt my own tears rising. He sings suggesting they return to Paris. They sing their final aria with overwhelming sadness. She feels she is recovering and stands, but no. Alfredo takes her in his arms and she dies. A very grand ending to this real Grand Opera. It was such a relief from the intensity felt by all of us in the audience to burst out with well-deserved tremendous applause.


Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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