At a plush party for the launch of his first novel, budding Young Adult novelist Alfredo finds love in HIV+ prostitute, Violetta. As romance blossoms between the two, Alfredo is torn between the pressures of his friend and agent, Giorgio Germont, and the desire to follow his heart. This heartbreaking and devastating tale of love tackles themes of class, fame and sacrifice.
Featuring operatic favourites such as the raucous Brindisi and the euphoric Sempre libera, La traviata is a real showstopper; packed with sumptuous, soaring melodies.
Verdi’s humble beginnings in provincial Parma did not foreshadow the success and renown that we now think of when hear his name. In fact, Verdi failed to gain a place at Milan’s conservatoire and instead underwent private tuition. Determined to have an opera of his performed at La Scala, Verdi persevered and eventually had his first opera Oberto performed at the prestigious opera house at the age of 26 years old. Now regarded as a national hero in Italy, Verdi’s works are performed frequently the world over and include Il trovatore, La traviata, Don Carlos, Otello and Rigoletto.
Cast and Creatives
Waterstones Orchard Square has been the largest bookshop in South Yorkshire for over 25 years. Complete with a café on the first floor, it is a cultural haven at the heart of the Steel City. The store is fully accessible with a lift located towards the rear of the store.
Brendan James (The Review Hub), August 2019 ★★★★
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Everything about Verdi’s La traviata appears to demand the full ‘operatic’ treatment. An incredibly rich score, both orchestrally and chorally. An epic love story that spans early flutterings of attraction to love then despair. Life, death, love, joy, everything that says, this is not an opera that can be pared back, modernised and performed in a book shop with no conductor, one piano and a cast of seven. This defiance of expectation seems to be exactly what drives Opera on Location to undertake their projects. Formed in 2013, Opera on Location have quickly established themselves as one of the most creative and imaginative young opera companies working today and ensure that the Sheffield arts scene will always have an opera for any occasion.
Director Ashley Pearson has taken La traviata to its core then crafted an entirely new libretto which is modern and, at times, hilarious without betraying the original story. Verdi himself specified that he would prefer that La Traviata was to be performed in a contemporary setting and in this production they haven’t wasted a beat in making La traviata current and urgent. The opera runs at a comfortable 2 hours 15 minutes which speaks for the economy of this new libretto. Opera on Location always perform in English so the text is accessible (and delivered with sparkling clarity). Opera on Location, as the name implies, bring their productions to exciting and unorthodox locations and this production has been set in a local branch of Waterstones. An ingenious touch in this new libretto sees Alfredo (traditionally a young man from a provincial family) as a hot young author bursting onto the sci-fi scene. This places Violetta as his cosplay fantasy woman, turning every head at his book launch.
Sci-fi and humour notwithstanding, La traviata is a tragic love story, and at the centre of the company we have Rachel Abbott as Violetta and Opera on Location co-founder Gareth Lloyd as Alfredo. Both do well to observe Verdi’s demanding dynamics in a space that, while generous for sound quality, was not built for opera. Both enjoy moments of vocal brilliance and are vocally well-matched. Abbott takes Violetta in a more modest and coy vein than perhaps anticipated but in Act One during È strano!…Ah, fors’è lui she finds a real burst of physical and vocal freedom. Greg Hoyt gives a generous and sophisticated performance as George Germont. Christopher Littlewood delivers perfectly pitched comedic moments as well as crystal clear vocals. Chloe Saywell is the unsung hero of the cast, performing with intriguing subtlety and exquisite singing.
Pearson has taken great risks with this production and that bravery has paid off. The dramatic staircase in the book shop makes for an impressive piece of staging, though sadly in the second half it did mean some slightly awkward movement and the placement of certain characters did affect the balance in the final harmonies. The contemporary setting, as well as the English translation, makes this an incredibly welcoming and unique opera experience. Ideal for young or first-time opera visitors.
Alex Burns (Classicalexburns), August 2019
Another summer comes round and that means one thing for us opera lovers – Opera on Location offer another unique production of a well-loved opera. After last year’s outstanding production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the talented Sheffield-based opera company brought a Verdi favourite to the Steel City. La traviata was composed in 1855, and was originally set in early 19th Century Paris. True to their name, Opera on Location catapulted this popular story line into today’s world, successfully connecting with all who enter into it. Set in the quirky setting of Waterstones book shop in the heart of Sheffield City Centre, what better place indeed to set one of Verdi’s most successful stories?
This intimate set up forces you to connect with the singers and Verdi’s awe-inspiring score, performed expertly by Musical Director Juliane Gallant. From the outset of the show the audience are hooked by the loved shared between Violetta (Rachel Abbott) and Alfredo (Gareth Lloyd), as they imagine their future together. The trials and tribulations faced by these two inherently tragic characters is supported by a first-class team of their ‘friends’.
From the long and emotionally-driven duet between Violetta and Germont (Greg Hoyt), to the hilarious guitar hero scene between friends Nathaniel (Tim Bagley), Gastone (Christopher Littlewood), Flora (Rosie Thickett) and Annina (Chloe Saywell), this company is one of the strongest in Opera on Location’s history. Rachel Abbott’s interpretation of Director Ashley Pearson’s updated English libretto was outstanding. Her versatile vocal ability was earth-shattering in such a small setting, but that made it all the more powerful for the completely entranced audience. Gareth Lloyd’s portrayal of Alfredo was a marvel to behold. From his strong vocals, to his tender acting, these two leads had special chemistry. My only negative about this production was the ending, which was perfectly ‘on location’ per se, but the over-dramatic fall at the end took me out of the moment somewhat. A small gripe on a largely brilliant production from Opera on Location. This cannot detract though from how accessible this production has been done for anybody who wants to give it a go.
From the modern English translations, to the casual clothes and the unique setting, the whole production opens its arms to anybody willing to give it a go.