A bold and ambitious new production
By Leeor Adar
Giuseppe Verdi’s accessible and lushly beautiful opera, La Traviata, is a favourite amongst opera lovers. The score is well-recognised across the globe, and it is certainly a treat to bask in its beauty up close.
The story follows familiar operatic lines: at a decadent party, an untamed woman and courtesan Violetta falls irrevocably in love with a bourgeois countryman, Alfredo. Their love is doomed of course by external forces, tearing them from each other only to be reunited in tragedy.
Enter BK Opera, that markets itself as a unique emerging opera company. Nurturing talent without the larger-than-life set and pomp, the company tries to bring the opera right before its audience with its ‘no sets, no props, no microphone’ styling coupled with outstanding singing talent. On this occasion, director Kate Millett reincarnates La Traviata as a modern show of glitz and glamour at a high-end brothel.
Boy, did BK Opera deliver on the stagecraft. The audience sat across from one another with a runway of gold for a stage: simple, yet effective. Strewn across this golden runway were handmade tissue flowers at one point, and with the sweep of a broom, it made way for further action during the production. I was impressed with these slick and strategic decisions, including those made over the lavish costuming, which did not shy away from lace, sequins and sparkles to really add to the allure of the bordello.
However, the production occasionally fell into some shambles, with the string quartet conducted by James Penn making some unfortunate jarring mistakes on the night I attended, and with Alfredo’s (Patrick MacDevitt) volume levels, particularly in Act One drawing Violetta (Rada Tochalna) from far away into a loving reverie manifested as blasting sentiments of love. Aside from these clumsy moments, there are standout elements to the production: some of the ensemble work was charged and sexy, and Tochalna’s astonishing, rich voice and strong stage presence and characterisation really gave this production its power. Interestingly, Joshua Erdelyi-Gotz’s performance of Alfredo’s brother, Giorgio, felt more deserving as a nuanced love interest. Erdelyi-Gotz’s voice was rich, measured and conveyed wonderful emotion.
While I therefore found some elements of this production a little frustrating, I was incredibly impressed with its innovation, and for this reason I would keep an eye on future productions that BK Opera produces. Undoubtedly as a new company there will be teething problems, but I cannot ignore the magnitude of effort and ambition injected into their work.
La Traviata was performed 18-26 August, 2017 at Reid Street Auditorium in Fitzroy North. For information on upcoming BK Opera productions, visit their website: https://www.bkopera.com.au