27 December 2011

La Traviata at the Royal Opera House

Once upon a time I had season tickets for the ballet at the Royal Opera House but that was about twenty five years ago and the Royal Opera House has rarely featured in my plans since then.

The last time I was tempted out to Covent Garden was to see The Bartered Bride (because of it's Czech/Slovak origins) and that was before this blog started, which makes it more than six years ago.

It is not that I have been especially avoiding the place, more that it has not done quite enough to attract me, whereas the likes of Glyndebourne and the English National Opera have.

What finally overcame my reluctance was an offer, through work, to see that most quintessential of operas, La Traviata.

As with other work offers, the tickets were on the cheap side, a mere £32, and that meant being several levels up and back in row K.

The seat was in the central section so the height was not much of an issue, like it's not at Glyndebourne either, and I could see the whole stage.

That said, row K is probably about as far as I would want to push my luck and those further back in the even cheaper seats, it climbs up as far as row W somehow, must have struggled to see parts of the stage even if they had the excellent eyesight required to cope with the extra distance.

La Traviata has a simple poignant story and who would not be swayed by the tale of boy meets girl, they live happily together, they split up for noble reasons, they are eventually reconciled and confirm their undying love for each other. Then she dies.

The split is manufactured by the boy's father, a mistake that he too regrets at the end.

The opera rotates around the three lead roles of the girl (La Traviata), boy's father and boy, in that order, with at least one of them on stage at all times and usually carrying the main singing duties.

There are some other notable roles, such as the boy's rival for the girl's attention, but these are much lesser parts and were delivered with less bravado. To be honest, the story and the opera would have worked without them.

The chorus too played its part in the two party scenes but it seemed a little timid at the first time of asking and only rose to the occasion at the second. Indeed the support singing was so weak at the start that I had to strain to hear it, something that I have never had to do at Glydebourne.

The opera improved quickly when the main soloists were given a chance to show off and either the support got better or I got more forgiving of it.

Hell is other people, as they say, and the other people in the cheap seats tried to live up to this with their whispering, drinking, rustling, unrestrained coughing and incessant clapping whenever the music paused for breath.

At times it felt more like being at a musical, or even a circus, than at a major opera in what would like to think of itself as the country's premier opera house.

But the best efforts of the inexperienced audience did little to diminish the beautiful music radiating from the orchestra pit and stage and their distractions were easily ignored.

La Traviata was delivered considerately and professionally leaving the music to tell the story and to convey the considerable emotion that defines the opera. There may have been nothing specific to mark the performance out as exceptional but neither was there anything specifically wrong with it and that left us with a good opera well presented.

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