Last night (May 20th) saw the live broadcast of Richard Eyre’s production of ‘La Traviata,’ which celebrates its 20thyear at the Royal Opera House. Viewers from all over the globe could stream it online from their Ipad while several open-air locations throughout the UK broadcasted it live to the public. Since 2000 ‘BP Big Screen Live’ has been providing opera broadcasts due to its success of encouraging first-timers to opera and experiencing it for free. Despite the warning of potential rain, Trafalgar square was a full house.
Violetta was casted by Ailyn Pérez who has built a strong relationship with the Royal Opera House. She was Liù in this year’s production of ‘Turandot’ where she received a grand applause for instilling tenderness and sorrow in her role – tonight was no exception; in fact, her performance was better. Following the shambled première of ‘La Traviata’ (1953), its composer, Verdi, wrote to his friends that Violetta required a highly talented coloratura soprano who encompassed elegance, charm and beauty whilst embracing her shortcomings as a high-class prostitute dying from consumption. Pérez managed to maintain her vocal strength after missing a couple of notes at the end of ‘Sempre Libera’ ;it was in Act 3 this was forgotten and she managed to gain the audience’s undivided attention and make some cry – Trafalgar square became silent.
Stephen Costello, who plays Alfredo, is Pérez’s husband off-stage which provides a twist to their on-stage relationship. He imparts a refreshing illustration of Alfredo’s character in comparison to others; Alfredo does not pretend to be an aristocratic alpha male but a naïve man susceptible to intense emotions as he shows us tears and remorse for embarrassing Violetta in front of society. One can imagine that the couple’s cleverly crafted depiction of Violetta and Alfredo is based on their countless practice sessions together at home; resulting in, no other than, a stunning performance.
Germont (Simon Leenlyside) was a passionately aggressive father scrunching up letters and hitting his son (only once) who, unfortunately, did not provide enough conviction or sympathy for suffering Violetta. However, the dance choreographies from the gypsy girls and manly matadors were exciting. This was a combination of flamboyance, flamenco dancing, musical stamping and radiant smiles, which Trafalgar square enjoyed; some even hummed the song in the intervals.
In addition to the sumptuous costume, the set design by Daniel Dooner follows the success of 20 years through the use of large spaces for the scenes of high society versus the small intimate spaces for the lovers, which gives the production a sense of juxtaposition that Verdi wanted the audience to see. An example of this is when the full-of-life carnival song ‘baccanale’ takes place outside Violetta’s home and large silhouettes overshadow her lonely and critically ill state. Dooner’s stage and Eyre’s direction is a reminder of the private; feeble nature of Violetta, versus the public; realism of 19th century values that Verdi wanted to undermine for his own artistic purposes.
The next BP Big Screen Live showing takes place on the 15th July of Puccini’s ‘La Boheme.’