Friday 5 October 2018

La Traviata at the King's Head

Verdi: La Traviata - Emma Walsh, Victor Sgarbi- King's Head (Photo Bill Knight)
Verdi: La Traviata - Emma Walsh, Victor Sgarbi - King's Head
(Photo Bill Knight)
Verdi La Traviata (a new version by Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson); Emma Walsh, Alex Haigh, Victor Sgarbi, dir:Helena Jackson, mus.dir: Panaretos Kyriatzidis Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 2 October 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Contemporary re-imaginating of Verdi's classic fails to convince

Reimagining operas from the classical repertoire has become something of a staple at the King’s Head and they’ve had some considerable successes not least of which was being nominated for an Olivier Award. So, I had high hopes for the King’s Head’s latest operatic offering, their much-anticipated English language version of La Traviata in a new version by Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson (who also directed). Who doesn’t like “an exhibition of harlotry on the public stage”?

Double cast, at Tuesday’s (2 October 2018) performance a technically assured Emma Walsh sang the titular heroine, Alex Haigh was her would be lover and nascent composer Elijah, Victor Sgarbi was Elijah’s widowed father Richard, a local politician, and Gráinne Gillis’ was Flora the unscrupulous club owner.

This break-neck contemporary version of La Traviata opened in a “Gentlemen’s” club, which in this case seemed to be shorthand for a knocking shop, owned by Flora, where Violetta entertained clientele.
Enter Sinclair, a local politico, with his gauche son Elijah in tow and before you can say libiamo he’s at it with the lovely Violetta. Despite the indecent speed of his ardour here was one of the evenings musical high-lights. The young lovers sang with rash abandonment in the Brindisi. It brought the house down, but poor Alex Haigh seemed less than comfortable at the top of his voice after his exertions. Emma Walsh on the other hand was anything but fragile either physically or vocally and didn’t cut a particularly tragic figure.

Verdi: La Traviata - Alex Haigh, Gráinne Gillis - King's Head (Photo Bill Knight)
Verdi: La Traviata - Alex Haigh, Gráinne Gillis - King's Head
(Photo Bill Knight)
Fast forward and the lovers are shacked up in Violetta’s bed-sit. No need to recover in a country idyll for her, and here’s where Violetta’s journey towards self-sacrifice started to falter. Despite some fine singing the pivotal confrontation with Papa Sinclair seemed particularly lack-lustre and I simply couldn’t work out why on earth this feisty girl would have acquiesced to this shamelessly self-serving politician. What on earth did she, or Elijah for that matter, have to lose?

Whatever else you change you can’t escape the inevitable denouement. Violetta’s lonely death by overdose might have been visceral but when my ears were telling me one thing and my eyes another it simply jarred. La Traviata is a tale not only of misogyny and moral bankruptcy but of self-sacrifice, redemption and love. This love left me cold.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

La Traviata - a new version by Becca Marriott and Helena Jackson
King’s Head Theatre
Tuesday October 2
Violetta : Emma Walsh
Elijah: Alex Haigh
Flora : Gráinne Gillis
Sinclair : Victor Sgarbi
Director : Helena Jackson
Musical Director : Panaretos Kyriatzidis

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Schubert's Winter Journey - Robin Tritschler and Malcolm Martineau at Wigmore Hall  - (★★★★★Concert review
  • Swan songs - Gerald Finley and Julius Drake at Temple Song  (★★★★★)  - Concert review
  • Love & Obsession: Robert & Clara Schumann and Brahms at Conway Hall - concert review
  • New dance double bill from New English Ballet Theatre & The English Concert (★★★★)  - Ballet Review
  • Pared down & claustrophobic: La Tragédie de Carmen from Pop-Up Opera  (★★★) - Opera review
  • Vividly theatrical, lyrically sung, but.... - Salome at ENO  (★★★★) - Opera review
  • A forgotten tradition: premiere recordings of two English symphonic works from John Andrews & BBC Concert Orchestra (★★★½) - CD review
  • Huw Watkins - Two concertos and a symphony (★★★½) - CD review
  • Jiri Belohlavek & the Czech Philharmonic in Janacek (★★★★½) - CD review
  • Vital & optimistic: Halle Children's Choir in Jonathan Dove's A Brief History of Creation (★★★½) - CD review
  • Late Romantic: I chat to pianist Margaret Fingerhut  - Interview
  • Decades - songs from 1830-1840, Malcolm Martineau and friends  (★★★★)  - CD review
  • Juditha resurgens: William Vann on reviving Parry's Judith - article
  • Mahler distilled: Iain Farrington and Rozana Madylus in "On Angels' Wings" (★★★½)  - concert review
  •  Home

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