Reviewed by Paul Charlesworth
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Glyndebourne Opera on Tour. It was established in 1968 with the twin aims of championing new singers and bringing opera to wider audiences. Few would doubt that it has succeeded in both of these objectives. While screenings from the Metropolitan Opera, New York, The Royal Opera House, London and indeed Glyndebourne have given affordable access to opera to many people, they are not a substitute for attending live staged performances. Neither do such performances have to be expensive, with prices for seats at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking starting at around £25.
La Traviata regularly tops the charts of the world’s most performed operas. This is hardly surprising since, as well as including some of Verdi’s most memorable music, the action explores themes that are timeless and relevant while taking us from the heights of ecstatic joy to the depths of despair as we follow the course of the doomed love affair between the main antagonists, Violetta and Alfredo. Even those not familiar with opera will find recognizable melodies from the start of the Overture to the first act.
This is a first-rate touring production, directed by Tom Cairns. Mané Galoyan as Violetta manages to portray the party-loving hostess in the opening scene and the frail consumptive at the end of the opera with great conviction. Perhaps, the most difficult and least convincing section of the opera’s plot is in Act I Scene II, where Alfredo’s father, Giorgio, persuades Violetta to give up Alfredo for the sake of the reputation of his family. In this production, this extended dialogue is made more believable by Noel Bouley’s characterization of Giorgio at his first appearance as not being overly self-righteous and overbearing, but as somebody clearly uncertain of the moral ground from which he is demanding Violetta’s sacrifice.
The Portuguese tenor, Luis Gomes takes the part of Alfredo, although this was originally ascribed to Fabrizio Paesano. The substitution works very well. Gomes, from the outset reveals his vulnerability and there is convincing rapport between the lovers. I was sitting at the very edge of the orchestra stalls and lost his voice once or twice in the lower, quieter passages. My hearing, however, is no longer perfect and overall, I enjoyed his performance.
The Glyndebourne Touring Orchestra, conducted by Christoph Altstaed, gave great support and played with sensitivity and precision, particularly during the quieter passages.
This production, while not lacking in glamour and razzmatazz in the party scenes is rather non-specific in its costume and setting. This works well and allows the audience to focus on the music, singing and acting. The main set is neutral, but flexible, and fills the large stage space at the New Victoria Theatre.
The tour continues in Woking with Massenet’s Cinderella (Cendrillon) on Friday 23rd November and La Traviata again on Saturday 24th, before moving on to Milton Keynes. I strongly recommend that you try to catch it.
Tickets cost from £23.90 to £92.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Glyndebourne’s La Traviata is at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking on 24 November 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/new-victoria-theatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7645.
New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6GQ