Opera review: La Traviata

La Traviata  opulence and debauchery of belle �poque Paris. Photograph: Jane Hobson.
La Traviata  opulence and debauchery of belle �poque Paris. Photograph: Jane Hobson.
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David McVicar’s production of Verdi’s classic weepie has travelled far and wide to great acclaim since its unveiling by Scottish Opera back in 2008 – and it’s not hard to see why.

Theatre Royal, Glasgow ****

It’s a sumptuous show, bringing together the opulence and debauchery of belle époque Paris, lit splendidly with ­Caravaggio-like expressiveness. It’s alive with telling detail: Violetta’s maid Annina slumbering dog-like on a mattress at the foot of her ­mistress’s sickbed, or the wonderfully convincing way McVicar has with crowd scenes.

It bristles with compelling storytelling, which shifts with cinema-style mastery from big setpieces – McVicar’s choreographed bullfight is a masterpiece of sexual symbolism – to intimate close-ups on his leading players, who are an interesting pair, in Marie ­Lambert’s eloquent revival.

Gulnara Shafigullina as tragic heroine Violetta seems more at home in Verdi’s slower music, where she caresses each note with exquisite care, than in the showy ­coloratura of Act I, but she charts her character’s descent from ­carefree concubine to doomed lover compellingly.

Peter Gijsbertsen as her lover Germont travels in the opposite direction: his Act I drinking song is touchingly naive, and he grows in passion and vocal richness as the evening progresses.

It’s a hugely involving production that propels you along with sheer emotion, and the Scottish Opera Orchestra is on broad and resonant form under conductor David Parry.