Monday, July 06, 2009

I've just returned home from watching La Traviata at the Royal Opera House. I feel as if my heart's been ripped out of my chest and trampled on multiple times. It's that sad, and that beautiful. In fact, it probably explains why the first CD I popped on when I got in happened to be Radiohead - The Bends.

I'm not a natural opera fan. I'll readily admit that it was MD who got me into it, and that it was almost exactly a year ago when we went out on what was pretty much our first proper date. Ever since then, I'd been wanting to watch La Traviata, at first because MD loves it so much, and, since we broke up, just to understand why he did what he did, having had a niggling suspicion that the boy had been raised on far too much opera than is wise for such a young man.

But I digress.

Renée Fleming, the celebrated American soprano, took on the role of Violetta. I found it hard to believe that she's given the strength of her voice and the vitality she imbued all of her movements. I found her a little restrained during Act I, but, man, did she come into her own in Act II, during her scene with her lover's father, Giorgio Germont as played by a commanding Thomas Hampson. After Germont asks her to leave his son, she sang with such emotion and movement as if she was about to break down on stage utterly and completely - something I found incredibly realistic. And later on in that scene, she cries real tears and continues to sing, again, something which rather impressed me given the effect crying usually has on someone.

But when she sang "Amami, Alfredo" ("Love me, Alfredo"), my heart just broke. Desperately seeking reassurance from Alfredo (Joseph Calleja) that he loves her just before she's about to fulfill her oath to his father and leave him so that they can retain their family honour, both her voice and the orchestra swell with such emotion that I doubt there was a single dry eye in the house at that point.

As if two great principals weren't enough, Joseph Calleja played Alfredo well too. His character goes through all sorts of emotions in the play, from a tentative declaration of love, to being competely and utterly in love, to jealousy and remorse, and he captured all of them accurately. One scene in particular - when he throws his gambling chips at Violetta declaring that he has repaid his debt to her - was especially well done.

And Act III? Other than the rather odd 'final lap' a terminally ill Violetta embarks on, everything was fantastic. Tears welled up in my eyes when Violetta was reading the letter from Germont and she declared that she'd been waiting for them to come but they hadn't yet, given that she and the audience know that she only has a few hours left to live. And then, from they finally arrive, and she sings about how unfair it is that she's dying so young after suffering so much, after being so close to happiness, the tears finally fell. I could hear a lot of sniffing in the theatre at that point.

All in all, it was a wonderful performance and I'm glad I spent almost the equivalent of one of my Hervé Léger dresses on a ticket even if I did end up seeing one of the great romantic operas all by myself.

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