Verdi’s operatic masterpiece masterfully staged

La TraviataThe Lowry, Salford

Friday, 21st November 2014, 8:00 pm
La Traviata
La Traviata

Opera North’s exhilarating production preludes with that gruesome technique familiar from any number of TV crime and medical dramas.

The doomed Violetta gazes across fin de siècle Parisian rooftops at an enlarged full moon. So far so La Boheme.

But the lunar symbol of love soon fades into a projected endoscopy video feed of her own tubercular lungs, and her downward spiral is set.

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It’s an incongruous idea. Why not show an image of a pumping heart to capture the core of the drama which is surely the spirit Violetta shows in facing the travails which await as a courtesan who comes to know the futility of her salacious existence?

But then the production’s powerful final image completes the earlier penetrating revelation.

A shadowy backdrop, almost itself a video feed, presents an audience of masked revellers partying on – her erstwhile degenerate friends – applauding Violetta on her death-bed, hinting at a wider diseased social elite. By then, Alessandro Talevi’s production has swept along through stylish sets and powerful performances in an entirely traditional manner.

South Korean stars Hye-Youn Lee as the doubly knowing Violetta and Ji-Min Park as the innocent and lovelorn Alfredo are as well-matched as their nationality would suggest.

She, surging through the demanding role with a sweetness of tone, expressive emotional range and agile upper register.

He, naive and out of his depth amid the debauchery, journeys from ardour to anger at her apparent rejection as the wider society’s moral code takes control of their lives.

That code is impressively imposed by Roland Wood as Alfredo’s father, whose insistence on regaining family honour by dragging his son back to Provence is yet softened by a hint of compassion.

Gianluca Marciano exerts masterful control of Verdi’s matchless score; Madeleine Boyd’s designs are economical and evocative; Matthew Haskins’ lighting both subtle and exotic.

La Traviata is performed again tonight. Opera North debuts its production of The Coronation of Poppea by Monteverdi tomorrow.

Mal Morris