As regular readers will know, we love intimate venues. We’ll take a smokily lit pub over a 3,500 seat theatre any day. This evening the scene opened at the King’s Head Theatre, a theatre pub since 1970, with Verdi’s La Traviata set in the opulent and glamourous inter-war 1920s USA.
Produced by Opera Up Close, the five-strong cast (full cast list below) did a fantastic job enveloping us in the tragedy of a dying woman who gives up everything she treasures for her love. And love is the theme. In writing this we found that many of our adjectives describe the heart, so do forgive our repetitiveness.
Louisa Tee in the lead role of Violetta has us hearing her every heartbeat and she sung with heart-wrenching passion the words of a woman who has lost and sacrificed all. Lawrence Olsworth-Peter as Alfredo was heartbreaking. Olsworth-Peter’s Alfredo, a somewhat shy and love-smitten man at the start manages despite this to shine beyond the sparkles of a lavish party and profess his true love for Violetta. His duets with Tee were beautiful and sensitive, with the voices matching and intertwining seamlessly.
With the perceived betrayal of Violetta, Alfredo responds the only way he can think how, ‘becoming’ an angry revenge seeking hedonist. The deeply sad bitterness that came across in this was a frightening contrast to the naive love filled Alfredo we had seen. When Alfredo realised that Violetta does still love him it was a weight lifted off his shoulders and he returned to the pure and honest heart he truly has. Tee and Olsworth-Peter were the bright lights of the opera, effortlessly absorbing us into their world.
Flora McIntosh as Flora (!) brought fabulous comic relief with great timing and a relatable reality, which had the whole theatre chuckling (what lady after all, doesn’t fiddle around with her necklace and pretend it’s a moustache?). McIntosh’s strong and rich voice rang out, especially alongside Dario Dugandzic and Christopher Jacklin (the Baron and German respectively). Jacklin showed us the over-bearing, controlling though ultimately repentant father with flair and control, whilst Dugandzic brought a much darker, yet beautiful flavour to the complex narrative.
The orchestration (a new one, by Harry Blake) was very much appreciated by this listener. Reduced to piano, cello and clarinet, the music was realised with lyricism, character and astute attention to detail. Verdi’s beautiful dovetailing lines between orchestra and voices was picked up by the clarinet (Sarah Douglas) and Douglas did a fine job playing with delicacy, precision and warmth.
And to those behind the scenes – we applaud you too. The costume design was sublime: flappers, fur, watches, waistcoats, heels and bling. The staging and lighting simple yet detailed: deco drinks cabinet, gramophone, chaise long with a beautiful striped throw, large windows and curtains.
Thank-you Opera Up Close – we cried and went through it with you. A great evening and a humble reminder of why we really do love music so much.
Watch the the trailer below – then buy tickets here. Well worth it. ~BF
Full Cast List
Violetta: Louisa Tee
Alfredo: Lawrence Olsworth-Peter
Germont: Christopher Jacklin
The Baron/Doctor: Dario Dugandzic
Flora: Flora McIntosh
Piano: Nick Fletcher
Cello: Jay Jenkinson
Clarinet: Sarah Douglas
Director: Robin Norton-Hale
Orchestrator: Harry Blake
Set Designer: Katie Bellman
Costume Designer: Jonathan Lipman
Lighting Designer: Andrew May
The photo does not necessarily represent the cast shown at the performance here reviewed on 18/11/13.