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La Traviata/Glyndebourne

Glyndebourne on tour is a less expensive version of the summer festival where the opera is put on the conveyor belt for the eventual production in the festival. There is quite a bit of fine tuning to be done to this La Traviata.

The story based on Alexandre Dumas’ Lady of the Camelias is powerful enough. Violetta is a young courtesan (the tart with a heart) who falls in love with an impetuous young country boy Alfredo, whose father Germont interferes as the affaire is embarrassing to his betrothed daughter.

Violetta, after making financial sacrifices for the relationship, accedes, takes up with the Baron but before she succumbs to consumption reunites with Alfredo.

The composer Giuseppe Verdi was in a relationship with a woman many years his junior so was writing from the heart. It is the most performed opera of all time. And rightly so for its melodies and location in Paris. So what went wrong?

The  passion betweeen Alfredo and Violetta is the driver.

There seemed  little chemistry between the two debutants – Emanuel’ D’Aguanno as Alfredo and Mane Galoyan as Violetta. They both sang competently enough but it was the lack of mutual interaction that let the production down. Add to this, the opera is quintessially Parisen, the Paris of the mid-nineteenth century, but not for the first time the production was in modern dress with contemporary sets which seemed a long way off from the Paris of that epoque.

Of course with arias like the glorious drinking song Brindisi (toast) it’s hard to ruin it entirely.

It’s always informative in a live production to assess the audience reaction. Next to me at dinner was a couple there for the husband’s birthday. He talked mainly of sport. They were opera goers. I was expecting comparison with Irina Dubovskaya’s Violetta in the 2014 Glyndebourne production and the great Violettas over the years in recordings and on stage, but none came. The performance as with me did not provoke an emotional reaction. They probably would have been happier watching England win in Seville 3-2.

And what of Glyndebourne?

I appreciated the lesser prices and more relaxed dress code than in the summer festival but the audience was the silver brigade, average age 70, white, and not at all diverse. Does it have an appeal beyond that or does it need one?

Increasingly opera is shown in cinema, cheaper if less of the thrill of actual presence at live performance. My feeling is country house opera will more than survive with a narrow audience base.

About Tim Holford-Smith

Despite running his architectural practice full-time, Tim is a frequent theatre-goer and occasional am-dram producer. More Posts