Guiseppe Verdi’s beloved opera, La Traviata is a pretty much a permanent fixture in any reputable company’s repertoire. It includes some of the most recognisable melodies in the genre. It was the opera that reduced Julia Roberts’ character to tears in the 1990 film, Pretty Woman, and its signature aria was the soundtrack to Richard Gere’s gesture of gallantry at the end of the film. La Traviata was not a random choice for the film; the opera’s tale of a reputable man falling for a courtesan is similar to the film’s plot about a ridiculously wealthy guy falling for a sex worker.
Social mores in the mid-1800s were very different, of course, and the romance between Violetta and Alfredo in La Traviata is doomed from the start. Opera Australia has gone very traditional with this production, directed by Elijah Moshinsky. The costumes and sets are of the period and the show’s designers have thoroughly availed themselves of the opulence afforded by high society of 1860s Paris. The curtain rises on a magnificent scene: a densely, elaborately furnished room crowded by exquisitely adorned, high spirited members of the bourgeoisie. This first act features one of opera’s most well-known tunes, The Drinking Song, a duet performed by Violetta (Stacey Alleaume) and Alfredo (Liparit Avetisyan). Both are in excellent voice, but Alleaume already stands out, tantalising us with the hints of the glorious singing to come. The role of Violetta is one of the most demanding for a soprano but Alleaume is up to the challenge. Her voice has a bell-like clarity that is captivating and wrought with emotion.
At the other end of the pitch spectrum is Mario Cassi as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father. He has a resonant, woody bass that is enthralling.
This production is an utter treat for the ears and the eyes. You’ll like it better than The Pirates of Penzance!