Opera Holland Park – La Traviata

La Traviata [sung in Italian with English surtitles]

Violetta Valery – Kate Ladner
Alfredo – Sean Ruane
Germont Pere – Robert Poulton
Flora Bervoix – Julia Riley
Aninna – Nicola Stonehouse
Gastone – Aled Hall
Baron Douphol – David Soar
Marchese D’Obigny – Stefan Holmstrom
Dr Grenvil – Nicholas Butterfield
Giuseppe – Nicholas Routledge
Flora’s servant – Nicholas Lester
Commissioner – Henry Grant Kerswell

Ruth Moss, Pedro Pires & Richard Court (dancers)

Opera Holland Park Chorus
City of London Sinfonia
John Gibbons

Elaine Kidd – Director
James Clutton – Producer
Giuseppe & Emma Bell – Designers
Simon Corder – Lighting Designer
Sarah Fahie – Choreographer

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 24 July, 2007
Venue: Opera Holland Park, London

When the Opera Holland Park season opened with a (to say the least) extraordinary production of Verdi’s “Nabucco”, staged in a circus setting with a ringmaster and a leading lady in battledress and high heels, one feared for the remaining productions. However, what followed has been of a very high standard and nothing quite as outrageous as that opening night. An excellent “Jenufa” was followed by a really amusing “The Barber of Seville” and then a rare and very welcome staging of “Lakmé”. Before the final production of this season, Montemezzi’s “L’amore dei tre re”, comes another Verdi opera, “La Traviata” which in Elaine Kidd’s production receives a more or less traditional staging.

Based on the play “La dame aux camellias” by Alexandre Dumas, Verdi’s opera was fairly sensational in its day. It was premiered in 1853 in Venice where subjects of a dubious nature could be handled without too much interference from the liberal authorities, but the first productions at Covent Garden declined to translate the libretto to save the audience from any embarrassment over a piece that dealt with a courtesan and her kept lover. That, however, didn’t prevent it becoming an enormous success. The story of love corrupted and betrayed, bigotry, shame and inevitable tragedy appealed to the audience’s love of Romantic melodrama. Even now it is often impossible not to be moved by Verdi’s undoubtedly great musical drama. John Gibbons and the City of London Sinfonia serve the score well and once again in this season the orchestra proves that it can handle any type of music with equal agility.

The period has been updated from the mid-nineteenth-century to what looks like the flapper era of the 1920s. This gives the designers the chance to come up with some stylish Art Deco settings and glitzy beaded dresses for the ladies. Most of the gentlemen wear evening dress and look as if they have just stepped out of a Fred Astaire movie choreographed by Busby Berkeley. It’s all very elegant although sometimes it goes way over the top: the chorus doing a hand jive, waiters and others dancing all over the shop and the gentlemen of the chorus hiding their heads under the skirt of the visiting gypsy fortune-teller. It is possible that the large space at Holland Park is just too big for what is essentially an intimate opera. But, as we know, space has to be filled, and for the most part the staging works well and always looks good.

The generally faultless company is led by quite a positive Violetta in Kate Ladner. This is a no-nonsense woman of the world who knows where she is going. In fact she doesn’t show any signs of being the doomed heroine. However, Ladner does have some sublime moments of singing the role of the consumptive, not least in the aria ‘Sempre libera’. Her Alfredo, Sean Ruane, also looks a picture of health and far from the lovesick young admirer of tradition. However, he sings well and pushes all the right buttons. Perhaps the best is Robert Poulton as Germont Pere, who appeared earlier this year in Philip Glass’s “Satyagraha” for English National Opera and is here making his Opera Holland Park debut. Vocally he exhibits enormous power and he really gets to the heart of the man who wrongly judges Violetta. He’s a fine singer and actor and I hope we see more of him again under Kensington’s smashing new canopy which must have been sorely tested by the battering of the recent appalling weather.

  • Opera Holland Park
  • Box office 0845 230 9769
  • Free ticket scheme for young people from age 9 to 18

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