Review: La Traviata (Welsh National Opera), Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Review: La Traviata (Welsh National Opera), Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

By Joy McKay.

The opera La Traviata was composed by Giuseppe Verdi with libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and is based on the novel Camille by Alexandre Dumas. It is the most commonly performed, and therefore considered the most popular, opera in the world. The story is set in and around 19th Century Paris in high society where Violetta, a courtesan, the Traviata (or fallen woman) of the title meets Alfredo, a rather dull man of some means from Provence, at a lavish party thrown at the home of local Duke. 

This production, by Welsh National Opera, retains the original settings in style. The costuming is full of bustles and petticoats, girdles and knickerbockers, top hats and silver-topped canes. The Louis XVI furniture show that this stately home has some style and old-money. It seems the Duke has managed to keep his family’s wealth and titles post-revolution. These traditional elements clearly set us up in time and space but the modern touches to the stage really bring the scenes together framing the vignettes to make you feel a voyeur in Violetta and Alfredo’s tale. A semi opaque wall stretches across the back of the stage, and this seemingly simple device manages to make the locations appear immense, as though they go on forever. But it is the great swags of fabric draped across the stage which really instil that sense of luxury and excess. 

The score is exciting, performed wonderfully by the orchestra and contains many of opera’s greatest hits. Even if you’re not an opera fan you’ll recognise many of the pieces from adverts and from being featured in films (like Pretty Woman). Really carrying the weight of this production is Stacey Alleaume as Violetta. She spends very little time away from centre stage and how she maintains her incredible vocality for such a sustained amount of time is nothing short of athleticism. She is partnered by David Junghoon Kim as Alfredo who has a warmth and softness to his tone but as a character is given less to work with than his father Giorgio Germont played by Mark S Doss. Giorgio’s first entrance to the stage is accompanied by genuine a villain musical theme and his unpleasant, underhanded behaviour makes him so engaging on the stage. 

Something this production really is is accessible. Think Eastenders x Moulin Rouge and you won’t be disappointed. The story is so ridiculous and many of the characters so unpleasant they really wouldn’t be out of place on a modern day soap or “reality” show. The plot is made easy to follow as the singers are subtitled on little screens so you don’t even need to remember the synopsis to keep track of what is going on. The duration may look a little imposing on paper, just short of three hours. But you get two intervals in that time to pop to the bathroom and top up your drink and discuss with your friend how exasperated you are at what Violetta is up to. It actually doesn’t feel that long at all (think of it the three acts like three Netflix episodes). 

For your ticket price you get a generous evening of entertainment, live music with a full orchestra, lots of drama and even a fair amount of dance. I thoroughly enjoyed my night at the opera and I would encourage anyone to who is already and fan, but even more, those who are just curious to go along. 


  • photo credit Julian Guidera.
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