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Scottish Opera: La traviata – Review

Verdi’s La traviata is a timeless story of love, loss, regret, and what might have been. Violetta and Alfredo are from two different worlds – she a courtesan in Paris and he a shy young man from the countryside. It was destiny that they meet, it was in a whirlwind that they fell in love and it was too late for it to be happily ever after.

This revival of Sir David McVicar’s production is directed by Leo Castaldi and stars soprano extraordinaire Hye-Youn Lee as Violetta and Ji-Min Park in his Scottish Opera debut as Alfredo. They are supported by myriad world-class talent of dancers, singers, actors, and solo performers. Was it any good though?

Hye-Youn Lee (Violetta Valéry) and Ji-Min Park (Alfredo Germont) in Scottish Opera’s production of La traviata.

‘Where’s your fancy notebook then?’ my husband asked in mock-jest, subtly gesturing the must-be media type along our row, pen poised over crisp paper.‘Don’t need one mate, I’ll keep it all up here’ says I with a tap to the head, trying to cover my embarrassment at being so forgetful.

Turns out though, I was right (in your face, past me!).

In all cheddar-ridden honesty, this opera will stay with me for a long time to come. You always remember your first, right? I had seen clips of the opera before and of course I’m familiar with the ‘classics’ thanks to mind-numbing TV talent shows, so I figured the reality wouldn’t fuss me too much. I was more concerned with looking as though I belonged at the opera in the first place to really think about what I’d be seeing, so, fancy frock on, I took my seat.

From the off I was rapt; I swear I thought it was only in the films that you saw the actual orchestra underneath the stage! The melancholic music and sombre lighting design of the opening scene left me in no doubt that this would be a journey. Under the expert conduction of Stuart Stratford, the musicians added incredible depth to the otherworldly performances of the cast on stage.

The dancers of Scottish Opera’s production of La traviata.

Hye-Youn Lee, whom I had the pleasure of recently interviewing, was nothing short of sublime in her performance as Violetta, leaving me a weeping mess by the end (thanks for that!). I had watched clips of Hye-Youn prior and they do not do justice to her incredible voice the way that a live performance does. Kudos to Ji-min Park too who rendered the audience awestruck during his more dramatic scenes and totally enamoured by him on his final bow – you could feel just how much it meant to him.

I must give a shout-out to Phillip Rhodes as Giorgio, Alfredo’s father; I loved and hated him, and even as I write this, I can’t decide which side wins out. The supporting cast too were luminescent, giving their all in every scene. Do I think this revival of La traviata was perfect? I have no frame of reference… yet… but I do know that I felt something, and to me, an opera virgin, that was more than enough.

Hye-Youn Lee as Violetta Valéry and Ji-Min Park as Alfredo Germont in Scottish Opera’s production of La traviata.

Over all, I was incredibly moved by La Traviata and if you get a chance to see this or any other iteration then I urge you to do so. I alluded earlier to my desire to fit in at the opera – I come from a working-class background where the hi-fi played Kenny Rodgers or Dean Martin – classical was what came on when the tuner played up. I didn’t think opera was meant for me. I thought it was for folk who had their educations paid for, who spoke twenty languages, who, I dunno, owned a yacht.

I was wrong.

Dancer Alistair Beattie in Scottish Opera’s La traviata.

My most favourite thing about the arts is their subjectiveness – you don’t need to understand the why or the how of something to love it, whether that’s an opera, a painting or a funny wee poem. If it affects you, then it’s yours. Scottish Opera are a welcoming bunch, to everyone and they know how to put on a damn fine show. I look forward to the next one.

Come with me.

La traviata runs until 15th June. Tickets for Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh here.

All Photos Credit: James Glossop

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