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Just call me Julia…
19 Feb 2014
by Rhea Alton


Well, my first visit to the opera was a success. I really enjoyed it and Katherine Jenkins can be safe in the knowledge that people of all shapes and sizes were alongside me in the seats at Theatre Severn so Shrewsbury is sharing the opera with all genders and all ages.

I went in with a mind full of Julia Roberts in her red dress and pearls, tears pouring down her face as she described, somewhat inappropriately, how much she enjoyed the performance (quite a memorable scene from Pretty Woman!).

I went with my Dad rather than Richard Gere and I wore a less-dressy outfit than Vivienne but I did choose La Traviata to be my first taste – the opera featured in Pretty Woman and said to be the inspiration for the film itself.

TraviataLa Traviata was performed by the Russian State Ballet and Opera House with a large live orchestra with English surtitles. Now I could tell the surtitles were not welcomed by many in the audience but I actually quite liked how they were positioned.

The board was high enough so that you could watch the performance without having it in your eyeline, making it quite easy to ignore them throughout if you wished, but the fact that they were there meant I could glance up every now and then and keep a track of the tale.

Opera La Traviata, by Guiseppe Verdi, was first performed on March 6th 1853 at La Fenice Opera House in Venice. It was first performed in England on May 24th, 1856 in Italian at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, where it was considered morally questionable (!?).

It tells the story of a courtesan who finds love but is then given a hard choice to make and ends up alone and dying as the audience wait to see if her lover will find out the truth about her sacrifice and reach her side before the consumption takes her life.

I was swept up in the story and although I knew what to expect from the final scenes (Julia’s tears are a clue) I found myself eagerly awaiting the next scene to find out what would happen to the characters.

The main characters are Violetta, her lover Alfredo and Alfredo’s father Giorgio, who delivers the choice to Violetta about his son. Oxana Klipka took on Violetta on Monday night at Theatre Severn and as described by a friend in the interval ‘she belts it out’. I found it extremely enjoyable to listen to her and felt she delivered the right amount of storytelling and drama with her performance.

Alfredo was Tenor Chingis Ayusheev and when he first appeared I thought that he was not going to be able to muster up intense emotional feelings for me but I was wrong – by the time we got to the final scenes I was right there with him as he realised his actions had lost him the chance of happiness.

And Giorgio Germont – my favourite of the night – was performed by Baritone Andrei Kovalev (at least I believe it was – the make-up was something to behold!). I wanted to be moved and I wanted to feel feelings people talk about when they have been to the opera and I think for me Giorgio Germont did that. His guilt at asking Violetta to leave his son, and the resulting situation, was hard-hitting and felt extremely real.

I didn’t cry but there is plenty of time for that as I will be heading back for another dose of opera as soon as I can!

The Russian State Ballet and Opera House are back at Theatre Severn in November with the Nutcracker and Giselle – I will see you there…

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