La Traviata Unwrapped opens the curtains a moment too soon, giving the audience a rare glimpse into the action behind the glittering world of the opera, as stage hands place chairs, light candles, and help the singers into place, while the orchestra plays the prelude.
The unwrapped evening gives a look at the logistics of touring a production of 173 people, but is primarily designed to reveal the process behind the production. The plot is summarised (the event was not spoiler-free, but for those who lack a thorough grounding in Italian, this is probably for the best), the conductor is interviewed, and various behind the scenes members of the cast explain what goes on before the curtain opens, all punctuated by brilliantly performed excerpts from the show.
The evening really adds to the understanding of the production. Little details – both in the set and in the music – are explained. For example, the stage is engraved with Violetta’s epitaph, something I would likely have missed had it not been pointed out to me. Similarly, it was fascinating to hear the conductor’s take on the score and the ways in which it adds to the story, like how Violetta’s songs begin high and loud, and end soft and low, mirroring her decline into death of consumption throughout the opera. This production of La Traviata, seems to really capture both the lavish opulence of Verdi’s music and the amazing level of detail that really makes the story come to life.
This production promises to be a lush, immersive show, with beautiful set design and virtuosic performances from both the orchestra and the vocalists. The care and thought put into all aspects of the production are clear- made even clearer by the unwrapped event. La Traviata is the kind of show that transports its audience into a world of decadence and luxury, and this production accomplishes that with aplomb, every detail contributing to the atmosphere of opulence and loss that characterises this opera. This is a highly expressive production; the cast and orchestra have mastered the art of conveying the emotion of the music, allowing the story to be understood in the most profoundly empathetic way.
Opera is best enjoyed when one has a foot in its world, and can understand the story that the music is telling, if not necessarily the words being sung. The unwrapped evening gives opera novices a grounding in the basics of plot and music. It explains the relationship between the two and what to listen for, what the swells and decrescendos mean. To the expert, meanwhile, it gives a fascinating look behind the music. Regardless of any of that, however, it’s an opportunity to hear some amazing music.
Runs Tuesday 21st, Thursday 23rd, Saturday 25th November
Photo Credit: Jane Hobson