Eric Bell enjoys an evening of drama, passion and incredible performances
Someone died at the Bristol Hippodrome last night. Not in the audience, fortunately, but on stage as part of the drama that is the Welsh National Opera’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata. But then, tragedy, along with lost love and heartache, seem to be common themes in opera, combined with a level of performance and occasion that is hard to find elsewhere.
For anyone new to opera – and this was only my third experience – this production of La Traviata is just a great place to start. From the beginning, the stage is awash with the colour and decadence of Paris society party, all fine gowns, champagne and extravagance, while the Drinking Song is as well known a piece of opera as you’re ever going to find.
Most impressively, the stage is full with a huge cast, all wonderfully portraying the outrageous nature of the party, with its host, the beautiful Violetta Valéry (Stacey Alleaume) at its centre, very much the hostess with the mostess, fighting off suitors and loving the limelight. When a young admirer, Alfredo (David Junghoon Kim) arrives and declares his love for Violetta, a tale of love, loss, heartache and death – all pretty standard opera fair – ensues.
However, this production raises the story to something far more dramatic thanks to the pure quality of the performances. Stacey Alleaume is just magnificent and well deserving of the very many “Bravos!” offered loudly by the clear fan sitting next to me at the show’s finale! Her voice is a thing of wonder, so powerful and clear and yet offering real emotion and tenderness.
Kim, while not possessing quite the stage presence or acting prowess of Alleaume, stills delivers well in the role of the starstruck young lover.
Around the central characters, the rest of the cast is faultless, with particular praise going to Mark S Doss as Giorgio Germont, who as Alfredo’s dad pleads with Violetta to break off the relationship for the sake of his family. There’s a real tenderness to Doss’s performance that is wonderful to see, and something that adds a very human, if somewhat misguided, element to the portrayal.
However, for me the most powerful part of the production is having the orchestra relocated from the pit and instead taking over the front rows of the theatre. It really is such a thrill to see these fantastic musicians up close, all under the guidance of leader David Adams, living each note and so much at the heart of the production.
It was also great to see the Bristol Hippodrome so full and busy for a night of classical opera. Certainly it, like me, you’re still quite new to this art form, La Traviata is perfect starting point. I can’t recommend it enough.
La Traviata runs at the Bristol Hippodrome until 21 October. For more details and to book tickets, go to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/welsh-national-opera-la-traviata/bristol-hippodrome/