La traviata [Opera North] – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Sandra Callard, September 2022
La traviata, that wonderful opera – the most performed in the world – by Giuseppe Verdi returns to the Leeds stage and I watched it with my usual great expectations; for the beautiful music, wonderful singing and the eternally sad, sad story of Violetta and Alfredo. Well, we got the music all right from the wonderful orchestra – what a joy to hear it soaring around the sumptuous Grand.
Based on Alexandre Dumas’ play La Dame aux Camelias, the popularity of La traviata has never wavered – and its numerous fans were out in force again. But they can be a picky bunch. The major role of Violetta was played and sung by Alison Langer in a fine soprano, and her pathos in illness and the terrible treatment she endured was done with true feeling. Her lover, Alfredo, was sung by Nico Darmanin, whose tenor voice was good, but his presentation did not quite hit the drama it should.
However, I did like the party and drinking scenes which rang true with a wonderful atmosphere of recklessness. I also thought the acting of Violetta was extremely effective as she played the good time girl who was beginning to feel the touches of a dangerous illness. She always seemed to turn in a better performance in these scenes than when she was happy with Alfredo. Alison Langer is a tall and elegant lady and, petty as it may seem, her height advantage over her lover Alfredo made their on-stage togetherness somehow feel mis-matched.
La traviata‘s theme is one of the saddest in all opera as Violetta is so very badly treated by nearly everyone in Alfredo’s family who do not know until it is too late what a profound gift she had given to Alfredo. It is vastly moving and the music is so beautiful it adds to the bleakness of the situation. However, I do feel that the latter action scenes felt a little stilted, and more passion was required when the truth was out. Nevertheless the singing of Violetta was excellent and very moving.
“Never anything less than a thrill”
Opera remains an acquired taste, but it was wonderful to see the stalls of the Grand Theatre well packed to an almost full house. Opera has produced some of the best and most beautiful music ever composed, and it is always a joy to see it come to the provinces. This particular performance from Opera North was good if not up to their usual dizzying heights. I felt the acting didn’t have enough believable drama to go alongside the wonderful music, but it is never anything less than a thrill to hear the arias rising and falling around the auditorium.
Opera varies just like any other kind of artistic performance and there will always be variations – and this La traviata had just enough in the music and visuals to satisfy those picky aficionados, without being truly outstanding in all departments.
‘La traviata’ is at Leeds Grand until 29th Ocotber 2022
images: Richard H Smith