Don’t be scared. Yes, the title says ‘Opera’ with some Italian name, but no, that does not mean it’s too high culture for you. In fact, Glyndebourne’s production of La Traviata at the Norwich Theatre Royal is about as accessible as they come. Romance. Breakups. Affairs. Deathly illnesses. Parties. Sounds about right for a melodramatic opera. Composed by the famous Giuseppe Verdi, La Traviata follows courtesan Violetta, who has recently fallen dangerous ill, as she begins a love affair with Alfredo, who has loved her from afar for a year. But when the couple moves away to the country, their past comes back to haunt them, causing their relationship to spiral downwards.
La Traviata doesn’t feel like a stuffy, unapproachable highbrow opera. Despite the ageing audience, the production feels more 21st century then you would expect. This famous opera has embraced the new-age trend of adapting classic works for a modern audience (look at just about any Shakespeare play performed within the last five years). With updated sets, costumes and performances, La Traviata is a modern retelling of a timeless story. Although the time period is never specified (the costumes and set pieces suggests that it takes place between the 1920s and 1930s), this production feels immensely contemporary. From the moment the curtains open to their final drop, everything felt relatable, as if I could understand it (even though I couldn’t because I am, in fact, not fluent in Italian – don’t worry, there are subtitles). The production wasn’t suffocating with pretentious fanfare; instead, it was gripping, exciting and, dare I say, cinematic.
What is most intoxicating about this production is its fantastically beautiful sets, designed by Hildegard Bechtler. Towering high above the stage, the company’s immaculate set pieces add to the grandeur of the show, reminding you that you are watching a piece of dramatic history. Along with the set design, the costuming of each character, as well as enhancing the intricacies of each character, are just plain beautiful. Violetta’s fine silk gowns are a pleasure to behold to anyone who has a taste for exquisitely made clothing. But, of course, a review about an opera can’t forget to mention to supreme talent of its singers. The main duo, Mané Galoyan as Violetta and Luis Gomes as Alfredo, play off each other beautifully, and Galoyan’s strong-willed, at times unlikable Violetta contrasted with Gomes’s excessively clingy Alfred. It’s an unusual pairing, as both characters are very much unlikeable, yet it works perfectly in the modern context the production has established. Plus, their vocals are out of this world.
If you’re scared by the idea of seeing an opera or simply feel as if the opera is too inaccessible to you, then perhaps you’re just seeing the wrong shows. Glyndebourne’s productions are far from snobby high-class performances. Instead, they are modern, exciting, perfectly performed and thrilling to watch. As the university suggests; why not do something different and see La Traviata at the Norwich Theatre Royal? You won’t regret it.
La Traviata plays at the Norwich Theatre Royal until November 16.