La Traviata

When is a live performance not a live performance? Can I claim a live screening in a cinema as one such? Well, La Traviata was really quite amazing so I’m going to, I just have to write about it!

The Royal Opera House amongst others have a Live Cinema Season – those to come are –

  • Tuesday 19 February – Don Quixote
  • Tuesday 2 April – La Forza Del Destino
  • Tuesday 30 April – Faust
  • Thursday 16 May – Within the Golden Hour, New Sidi LArbi, Flight Pattern
  • Tuesday 11 June – Romeo and Juliet

This was my 4th live performance in my local Odeon Cinema, that of course means a 10 minute drive to get there and more importantly to get home, always good on a freezing night like last night! At the end of 2018 I saw The Madness of King George III, The Nutcracker and The King and I. The latter two will, I imagine, have been expensive to watch live if it had been possible to get tickets. I thoroughly enjoyed them all.

I’d never watched an opera, so spending £20 to do so seemed a good deal, I know very little about it and had no idea if I’d like it.

I have found the audiences in the cinema can be a tad annoying, some seem too thin they’re in their living room, talking throughout, I’m sure they wouldn’t do that in the Royal Opera House!

For me one of the biggest benefits of watching a performance this way is all of the ‘stuff’ that goes on around the actual acts. Plenty of explanation and interviews with both performers and ‘back room’ staff. I went with my good friend Sheila and we were delighted to see Placido Domingo on the cast list, him I do know!

He was interviewed before things kicked off and during the intervals we heard from Richard Eyre who conceived this production 25 years ago and the designer Bob Crowley, both were a delight to listen to.

Another of the benefits were the sub-titles, this is an Italian Opera, with the composer being Giuseppe Verdi and the Libretto, Francesco Maria Piave, the story is based on the book, La Dame Aux Camelias, written by Alexander Dumas fils, published in 1848. Here’s an extract from Wikipedia by way of explanation

Written by Alexandre Dumas fils (1824–1895) when he was 23 years old, and first published in 1848, La Dame aux Camélias is a semi-autobiographical novel based on the author’s brief love affair with a courtesanMarie Duplessis. Set in mid-19th-century France, the novel tells the tragic love story between fictional characters Marguerite Gautier, a demimondaine or courtesan suffering from consumption, and Armand Duval, a young bourgeois.[2] Marguerite is nicknamed la dame aux camélias (French for ‘the lady of the camellias’) because she wears a red camellia when she is menstruating and unavailable for making love and a white camelia when she is available to her lovers.[3]

Armand falls in love with Marguerite and ultimately becomes her lover. He convinces her to leave her life as a courtesan and to live with him in the countryside. This idyllic existence is interrupted by Armand’s father, who, concerned with the scandal created by the illicit relationship, and fearful that it will destroy Armand’s sister’s chances of marriage, convinces Marguerite to leave. Up until Marguerite’s death, Armand believes that she left him for another man. Marguerite’s death is described as an unending agony, during which Marguerite, abandoned by everyone, regrets what might have been.

Violetta (Marguerite), the main character is played by Ermonela Jaho, Alfredo (Armand) by Charles Castonovo and his father by the legend that is Placido Domingo.

Jaho, was born in Albania, she trained in Rome and made her debut as Violetta at the age of 17, she made her Royal Opera House debut in 2008 and is a clear favourite. Castronovo was born in New York, he trained in America and made his ROH debut in 2004. Placido Domingo was born in Madrid and made his debut at the ROH in 1971 he has sung 27 roles for them, he is a superstar of Opera.

This production was well over 3 hours, but that time flew by, the performances were sublime, and Jaho’s ability to cry/act at the same time as singing was remarkable, the final scene had Sheila and I in tears too! I think for me, as a novice, this is the way to watch Opera, I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to the Royal Opera House anytime soon, but I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to the genre.


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