Directed by Elijah Moshinsky
Conducted by Renato Palumbo
Joan Sutherland Theatre
The Opera House, Bennelong Point
Season (see website for performance dates) 3-22 July
La Traviata, meaning ‘The Fallen Woman’, laments the tragedy of a beautiful courtesan’s downfall, meeting an agonising end after suffering for her deep love. The Opera Australia production at the Opera House is utterly beautiful, taking you back in time in a deeply moving performance that enraptures the audience.
La Traviata is Verdi’s masterpiece, being one of the most performed operas and renowned for its poignant evocation of emotion. The story follows the romantic and tragic love between Violetta and Alfredo. After confessing their love to one another at a party and then living together in the countryside, Alfredo’s father begs Violetta to leave Alfredo as the scandal of their affair is jeopardising his sister’s forthcoming marriage. Plagued with tuberculosis, Violetta consents to leave him; despite the anguish both feel without each other. Heartbroken and jealous when Violetta attends a party with the Baron, Alfredo publicly insults Violetta, unaware of the deep devotion motivating her actions. After being rebuked by his father, Alfredo realises his mistake and goes to visit Violetta at her home where she is starting to waste away at the cruel hand of tuberculosis. With their love rekindled, they begin to plan for their future…before Violetta falls dead.
Lorina Gore is astonishing in the role of Violetta – with an impeccable voice and such strong expression of both love and despair that it seemed tangible in the theatre. These emotions were further conveyed in her changing use of vibrato, resulting in an engrossing performance. She exhibited exquisite dynamic control, heightened by the top-notch acoustics in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, so that Violetta could express her anguish and exasperation in hushed tones as well as her jubilation at great volume. Furthermore, her powerful voice seemed incessantly effortless in spite of the demanding voice work required by the piece. Violetta is required to sing in ‘three voices’, with flexibility and strong top range in the first act, warm tones and character depth in the second act, and finally the dramaticism in her vocal ability to express the terrifying nature of her impending death. Gore revealed this diverse range of skills in her performance to great success. There were numerous duets throughout the opera, which served to convey the relationship of the characters in their world. Notably, Rame Lahaj as Alfredo sang with Violetta in proclamations of love, which were irresistible to the audience. Additionally, Jose Carbo as Giorgio, Alfredo’s father, was also a standout, imploring Violetta to weep and leave Alfredo as he is conflicted between protecting his daughter by establishing a secure marital position for her, and allowing Alfredo to flourish with the woman he loves.
The set and costume design was pivotal in painting an authentic historical picture. With set designed by Michael Yeargan and costumes designed by Peter J Hall, the two elements had great synergy to make this stage version of Paris highly believable, and yet simultaneously dreamlike in catering to our tendency to romanticise the past. Lavish costuming and ornate furniture filled the stage, framed by some exquisite architectural designs. The audience could feast their eyes on this abundance of sublime detail, especially during the chorus items with a spectrum of colourful personalities on stage.
La Traviata is breathtakingly beautiful, and a truly magnificent introduction to opera. With subtle English subtitles this performance can be accessible to anyone, regardless of your previous experience with opera. It is rare to come across such a rich and opulent performance on the stage of late, with funding and support of the arts a continual struggle. Here is an opportunity to see a spectacular celebration of what art can be, in its engagement with both the joyous and harrowing experience of love, as well as indulging in the elation of opera.