Seen at Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Touring until December 2
Reviewed by Mark Brown
It isn’t difficult to see why there was so much resistance to the work of Giuseppe Verdi, both from sections of the 19th-century audience and, most damagingly, from the political and cultural establishment of the day. Although his music was among the most exquisite in all of opera, his political instincts (like those of the younger Alexandre Dumas, whose writings inspired La Traviata) were in conflict with the stern and hypocritical mores of his society.
La Traviata (or The Fallen Woman) is a love story and a morality tale about Violetta Valery, the high-class prostitute of Dumas’s novel La Dame Aux Camelias (who was based upon the real-life Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis). Turning her back on her former life for the love of young society gentleman Alfredo Germont, she finds herself confronted with the threats and exhortations of Alfredo’s puritanical father Giorgio. Proving herself more loving of Alfredo than her adversary, Violetta rejects her lover, so as to spare him and his family the strictures of an unforgiving society.
A brilliant revival of David McVicar’s 2008 production, this Scottish Opera staging by Marie Lambert takes us to the very heart of the opulent and cynical society soirees of Paris in the mid-1800s. Splendidly costumed, set and lit (by Tanya McCallin, design, and Stephen Powles, lighting), with vivid colour swallowed by dominant black, the piece looks and feels like a living premonition.
Dutch tenor Peter Gijsbertsen gives a vital and anguished performance as Alfredo, while English baritone Stephen Gadd offers a perfect, stiff-necked rendering of the brutally upright Giorgio. The performance of the evening, however, comes from Russian soprano Gulnara Shafigullina, who makes a searing Scottish Opera debut with a hauntingly sympathetic, gorgeously sung Violetta.
For tour dates, visit: scottishopera.org.uk
An abridged version of this review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on October 29, 2017
© Mark Brown