La Traviata | The original tearjerker

Watching Italian operas is always a good experience as I (somewhat) understand the language and so can appreciate the beauty of the arias. I also do not have to rely so much on the surtitles and can make my own sense of the words. For example I don’t like it when cielo is translated as Heaven, I like thinking she means the sky, the afterlife, the spirit world (does she really believe she will go to Heaven?)

The basics of La Traviata are well known – from La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils. Fallen woman falls in love, couple torn apart, repentant lover returns when she is at the brink of death, she dies, everyone cries. Even though I would say that the book is a lot more infuriating than that, mainly due to Dumas’ horrible sadism but anyway, somehow this has turned out to be one of the greatest love stories.

Diana Damrau as Violetta Valery and Francesco Demuro as Alfredo in La traviata, The Royal Opera © ROH / Catherine Ashmore 2014
Diana Damrau as Violetta Valery and Francesco Demuro as Alfredo in La traviata, The Royal Opera © ROH / Catherine Ashmore 2014

I thought I would remain calm and a bit detached but the music and the interpretation (not to mention the grand sets) make it impossible to not be swept away into this world and the dramatic feelings it all evokes.

Diana Damrau as Violetta was a tour de force. This is the type of voice that makes me wish I understood opera and music a lot more – just to be able to use the right words. Alas, my vague feelings of “for f.s. this woman just blew my head clean off” must suffice.

I was extremely touched by Francesco Demuro as Alfredo. He has an excellent theatricality and his tones really touched me. When he kneeled down next to the dying Violetta and started “Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo” I was crying and sniffling like nobody’s business. Like the lady next to me, the young girl two rows down and half the theater too probably.

Diana Damrau as Violetta Valery in La traviata, The Royal Opera © ROH / Catherine Ashmore 2014
Diana Damrau as Violetta Valery in La traviata, The Royal Opera © ROH / Catherine Ashmore 2014
Francesco Demuro as Alfredo in La traviata, The Royal Opera © ROH / Catherine Ashmore 2014
Francesco Demuro as Alfredo in La traviata, The Royal Opera © ROH / Catherine Ashmore 2014

I do have to note the *excellent* designs by Bob Crowley – I challenge anyone to see the sets and not be amazed by the stark antithesis of the designs which mirror the music and the plot. The sumptuous reds and greens of the gambling table for example versus the grey and white desolation of the final act.

In the end, I couldn’t help it, I was very touched by the story, the music, the design, the interpretations. I love how good art can have this effect on me – even when I initially think that the subject matter is tired.

All in all an excellent night – well worth it.

Here is the Opera short for La Traviata by Minhee Cho and Estelle Woo, students on the Illustration and Animation course at Kingston University, the animation was inspired by the moment when Alfredo falls in love with Violetta. (see more details here)

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Disclosure: Watched La Traviata on 09 May 2014 (Damrau, Demuro, Keenlyside, Pring) and paid for my ticket. No prior discussion with the venue took place.
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