La Traviata began with an ethereal full moon beamed on to the backdrop of Nottingham’s Theatre Royal and a polite notice that Hye-Youn Lee was unwell and Anna Jeruc-Kopec was to play the role of Violetta. As the silhouette of Violetta appeared and the murmuring of the audience ebbed away Jeruc-Kopec made sure no one would be disappointed by the understudy’s performance.
Violetta is a courtesan who indulges in the luxuries of Parisian high life. Act 1 opened with a lavish party hosted by Violetta. The first striking thing about the opera for me was the number of cast members. The stage was filled with drunken party members singing in full, rich harmonies. The regal seventeenth century costumes added to the vibrancy and business of the opening scene. At this point, Alfredo played by Ji-Min Park was introduced. Alfedo has long been an admirer of Violetta and expresses his love for her. This declaration of love is quickly interrupted by Violetta, who explains she has no interest in falling in love. The complex overlapping of sung parts from X, Ji-Min Park and the chorus were executed perfectly. The opening song ‘Libiamo ne’ lieti calico’ did not sound crowded nor over rehearsed. It gave the relaxed, merriment feeling of a party.
The opening song ‘Libiamo ne’ lieti calico’ …gave the relaxed, merriment feeling of a party.
As Act 2 unfolded, the audience learnt that Violetta could be tempted to leave her exuberance lifestyle and fall in love. To her surprise, she settles for a quieter life with Alfredo away from Paris. This act included more minimal scenery and fewer artists. This allowed the focus to fall solely on the singers musical talents. Jeruc-Kopec’s soprano melodies were beautifully complimented by her on stage lovers tenor vocals. The two lead artists sang faultlessly. The orchestra, consisting mainly of string instruments, glued the performance together with extraordinary timing and precision. The instruments, although vital to the show, remained quiet and subdued. The richness and magnitude of the singers’ voices must be given credit. The cast was able to fill the expanses of the Theatre Royal without the assistance of a microphon.
Jeruc-Kopec’s soprano melodies were beautifully complimented by Ji-Min Park’s tenor vocals.
The drama within Act 2 was narrated with English subtitles. This was just as well as the story line became more complicated and the pace drastically quickened. The opera flitted between minimal scenes between two characters and lavish party scenes involving the entire cast. A highlight included the song between Alfredo’s father, Giorgio and Violetta. In this tender, emotive song Giorgio asks Violetta to leave his son in order to honor the family’s reputation. The song ‘Pura siccome un angelo’ has various renditions available online but no video clip can do the on stage emotions justice. The tenor chorus’ part during the party was a particular favourite of mine. It nicely broke up Violetta’s soaring soprano notes adding more depths and a range of octaves to the scene.
A highlight included the song between Alfredo’s father, Giorgio and Violetta
Act 3 is fairly short yet the most powerful of the three acts. Without spoiling the ending, it involves a melancholy range of emotions and was delivered in a effortlessly tasteful manner. The one aspect I felt perturbed by was that the full moon from the first act had been replaced by projected videos of cells. The image of microscopic cells wasn’t cogent with the delicate subject being addressed in the last scene. The image was an unusual choice and for me, the only thing out of place in an otherwise flawless production.