The Welsh National Opera are currently touring, at The Mayflower, Southampton. I was invited along on Wednesday for a behind the scenes tour and to watch their rendition of Giuseppe Verdi’ famous ‘La Traviata’, Italian for ‘The Fallen Woman’. La Traviata, although it was not initially received well, when first performed in Venice 1853, is now one of the most famous and frequently formed operas in the world.
This is my second time watching the WNO and I am always blown away. Despite the entirety of the Opera being performed in Italian, the Orchestra and cast bring to life the story of Violleta, and make it easy for the audience to follow, simply by the power of music and dance, although there are surtitles above the stage to follow along, should you wish.
La Traviata is a love story based on a conflict of duty and a burning love between Violetta, a courtesan woman and her new found love, Alfredo. La Traviata is dramatic and intense from the offset, and will have you gripped by your emotions throughout. Split into 3 acts, each following the struggles of Violleta through powerful and dramatic operatics and dance. The opening scene is a lavish party, with the whole ensemble on stage dancing along to the famous ‘drink song’, Brindisi. I loved this opening as the cast and orchestra bought the opera alive and the stage was full of energy. Although things change drastically, pretty quickly as you learn how Violetta is being consumed by her illness. A clever attention to detail and symbolism of this story is displayed on the stage floor, as the entire opera is performed on top of Violetta’s grave stone. Set in 19th century, France, La Traviata is immersive, not only by the classical music but by transporting you with the staging and costumes as the cast are laced up in corsets, and crinolines.
One thing that I love about the WNO is how they can translate such a beautiful story from a completely different language, the audience can follow along or simply get lost in the beautiful orchestra.
Having the opportunity to visit behind the scenes, provided me with a new found appreciation for the theatre. So much background work takes place to put on a performance like La Traviata, that the audience just do not see. The behind the scenes crew work tirelessly to provide a seamless performance for their cast and the audience. Every little detail has to be spot on and timed perfectly. The WNO bring all of their sets for the different Operatics, behind the scenes at the theatre, to ensure a swift turn around between performances. The costumes are washed and dried at the theatre, after every show, including the wigs, which are oven dried afterwards. The cast have to get ready super quickly and in the smallest of spaces, and on the wings of the stage during performance.
Opera is a little different for me and a step outside of my usual theatre comfort zone, but I think its good to mix things up every now and then, and I would say everyone should experience an opera at some point in their life. The WNO never fail to amaze me.
The WNO are currently performing at the Mayflower a range of their Autumn season operas, including La Traviata, War and Peace and La Cenerentola, until the 24th of November. You can find out more information on the Mayflower website here! or on the Welsh National Opera website here!
*Tickets were complimentary for review purposes, press images were provided the Mayflower. All views are honest and my own.