Thursday, July 18, 2019

La Traviata delivers conflicting yet stunning portrayal of timeless themes

February 15, 2019 by Kate Wood, staff writer

My evening at the opera—La Traviata—began last night with a compelling pre-performance lecture from Pacific Opera Victoria’s Robert Holliston. The stories he told of the the inspiration for La Traviata were intriguing, and immediately made clear the opera’s influence on familiar stories such as Moulin Rouge! and Pretty Woman. The opera was first performed in 1853, but the story is timeless.

The prelude was sparse and melancholy, well in keeping with the moonlight coming through the windows at the back of the stage at the Royal Theatre. The roles of soprano—Violetta—and tenor—Alfredo—are being played for the first time by Lucia Cesaroni and Colin Ainsworth, respectively. The talent in this show is unquestionable, as chill-rendering notes so effortlessly delivered by Cesaroni spread out to all corners of the theatre.

La Traviata delivers a forward-thinking show (photo by David Cooper).

Written to take place in the 1700s, it is now transposed into 1920s Paris, when the city was paralyzed by the end of the First World War. The urgency of pleasure was evident, and as the chorus sung to “perish in a whirlwind of joy,” I could feel the genuine intimacy of the unknown.          

It, admittedly, took some time for me to wrap my feminist millennial mind around the storyline. The idea is communicated early on in the show that Violetta lives only for Alfredo, and it is up to him to save her. Looking deeper, it’s really quite a forward-thinking portrayal of a courtesan as the primary source of income for a household. By the time they sung their final notes in harmony, they had me.

A word of advice to future attendees: make sure to sit in on Holliston’s pre-performance lecture. It allows viewers to understand the complex themes within La Traviata that might otherwise be missed. The surtitles are easy to be distracted by, and, although they do help the audience follow along, it’s really quite a straightforward storyline. Read the synopsis before the show, and then just listen.

La Traviata
Various times, until Sunday, February 24
Various prices, The Royal Theatre

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