Review: La Traviata

4 star rating
Verdi's sumptuous opera gets a modern, intimate and accessible makeover through a tragic, tear-jerker of a storyline wonderfully delivered by a cast of 4 gifted singers.
La Traviata at King's Head Theatre

Image: King's Head Theatre



Closes here: Saturday 27 October 2018

Author:
New English version by Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson.

Director:
Helena Jackson

Cast:

Emma Walsh - Violetta

Becca Marriott - Violetta

Alex Haigh - Elijah

Oliver Brignall - Elijah

Gráinne Gillis - Flora

Gemma Morsley - Flora

Michael Georgiou - Germont

Victor Sgarbi - Germont

Elspeth Wilkes as the musician


Synopsis


England, 2018.


Violetta earns her crust dancing for the rich and powerful at an exclusive gentleman's club until a chance meeting with naive and idealistic Elijah changes everything.


The powerful collide with the powerless, with earth shattering consequences for all involved.


Combining Verdi's breathtaking music with a new English version from Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson, this is La Traviata exposed, uncovered and redefined for the twenty first century.


Background


The acclaimed company behind the Olivier Award nominated ('Best Opera, 2018') production of La bohème present a radical reimagining of Verdi's incendiary tale of sex, class and power, La Traviata.

ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Wednesday 3 October 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

First performed in the dim and distant past of 1853, Giuseppe Verdi's 3 act opera gets a pretty thorough, contemporary makeover here in a stimulating and compelling new version by Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson.


It's a makeover that transforms the opera in terms of its contextual setting whilst retaining the emotional potency of Verdi's music.


With the opera sung in English and a plot that is refreshingly up-to-date, Helena Jackson's accessible production will easily seduce and reward those who would not necessarily jump at the chance to see opera, and those who are devotees of the genre.


A singing team of just 4 bring this reworking of Verdi's masterpiece to the King's Head stage in a small-scale version that feels entirely comfortable in both its own skin and it's relatively compact accommodation.


Employing some of the audience to fill-out the cabaret-style, on-stage seating in the initial scene, there's an intimate yet slightly seedy feel to Amanda Mascarenhas's design, with neon lights sporting the words "Girls, girls, girls" advertising the essential nature of the location - a pole-dancing club.


It's here where Becca Marriott's Violetta dances round her gleaming aluminium pole, bathed in sultry red light, trying to eek-out a fairly insubstantial and unrewarding living, governed by a money-grabbing boss called Flora.


Then one day a young, naive young dreamer called Elijah fetches-up at the club and immediately falls in love with the main attraction.


Reticent but also eager to at last latch-on to some real love, Violetta teams-up with Elijah and, for a few months, manages to enjoy some romantic bliss.


But her background threatens to mire in scandal the political ambitions of Elijah's father, who is anxious to be rid of her.


Faced with a bleak, possibly loveless future, Violetta's demise is sealed.


Two casts are tackling La Traviata, and the one I caught was on fine form with strikingly powerful singing voices that at times seem capable of lifting the roof off the entire building.


But the raw power here is tempered with refinement, restraint and astonishing control, allowing them to evoke a wide range of emotions, including the painfully affecting.


And that's important here because this is a tragic, tear-jerker of a storyline that has absolutely nothing to offer in the "happy ever after" stakes.


Director Helena Jackson gives us time to reflect on occasions, with mood-setting interludes that include some deft pole dancing choreographed by Iris Sparkles.


Small-scale it may be, but this version of La Traviata is nevertheless a wonderfully engaging evening of sumptuous singing, with Becca Marriott's immensely moving portrayal of Violetta the icing on the operatic cake.


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