Simply a tragedy to die without seeing this one
The Italian opera La Traviata arrives at the Royal Opera House this month, and the hype is so big that some performances are nearly sold out. Written by Giuseppe Verdi and set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, this classic love story has proved enduringly popular since the 1850s. Indeed, it’s currently the second most performed opera in the world, trailing only behind The Magic Flute. See it once and you’ll understand why.
Based on La Dame aux Camélias, a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, it tells of the tragic romance between Violetta Valéry and Alfredo Germont. Act one, full of joviality and optimism, sees the lovers meet for the first time, joining together in the famous drinking song (‘Brindisi: Libiamo’) before Alfredo confesses his love (‘Un di Felice’), thereby sowing the seeds of their future romance. By act two they are living together in seemingly domestic bliss (‘De’ miei bollenti spiriti’) before the age-old relationship breakers - financial woes, family pressures, jealousy and a tangle of misunderstandings - lead to Alfredo humiliating Violetta (Questa donna conoscete) and winding up in a duel. The final reconciliatory and lump-in-throat inducing act sees Alfredo discover how he has misread and mistreated Violetta, returning to beg forgiveness only to find her struck down by tuberculosis. Having planned to leave Paris together forever (‘Parigi, o cara’) Violetta falls dead at her lover’s feet.
The Copenhagen performance, which is sung in Italian with Danish supertitles, has a cast packed with Danes. Royal Danish Opera soprano Gisela Stille takes on her first-ever appearance in the role of Violetta. A fellow Dane and first prize-winner of the Gosta Winbergh Award in 2006, the tenor Peter Lodahl, plays Alfredo. Regular opera-goers may also recognise baritone Palle Knudsen as Giorgio Germont and the soprano Lise-Lotte Nielsen as Annina.
It is directed by David Radok who has staged several of the Royal Opera’s successes, including The Rake’s Progress, and given a modern overhaul by set designer Lars-Ake Thessman with costumes by Ann-Mari Antila. Men in suits and women in ball gowns bridge the gap between Verdi’s Paris and now. If you’re a Danish speaker, rock up 30 minutes early to hear a ten-minute free introduction to the show. And book up quick - seats are disappearing fast.
Operaen, Store Scene, Ekvipagemestervej 10, 1438 Cph K;