La Traviata: Behind the Curtain (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Thursday 22 November 2018

La Traviata: Behind the Curtain
New Victoria Theatre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 21st November 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

As part of Glyndebourne's 2018 touring season, they are offering Behind The Curtain performances where "the essence of opera is revealed" and audiences get a look at La Traviata as it's cleverly dissected and put together again for a condensed version of the show.

Hosting the night is comedian and opera lover, Chris Addison who welcomes the audience with open arms, and discusses opera in a thoughtful but easily understandable way. First up is a look at the famous brindisi which in 1853 was the equivalent of Gangnam Style in a show, as shown by the stellar Glyndebourne chorus. Addison likens the song style to "a group of students who don't stop talking about getting drunk." These comments, plus other ingenious ways of educating- such as showing the difference between recits and arias through a sung version of outrage at a Greggs bakery opening- make the entire night flow whilst informing people of all ages and keeping them entertained through humour and music.

Much of Addison's commentary is underscored by the glorious Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra, led by Ben Glassberg, who play both pieces from La Traviata and pieces which inspired/were inspired by it. The talent of the orchestra is evident throughout, no more so than when their sight-reading skills are shown off when playing Glyndebourne's Balancing The Score composer, Ailie Robertson's Invocation. Other games include a quick change competition called Beat The Orchestra and an audience guess at how many operas have been composed since Jacopo Peri's first, Dafne.

This Behind the Curtain event takes on the form of part opera performance, part lecture and is a whole lot of fun for both opera fanatics and new fans. It also raises questions to keep you thinking such as "is there ever an authentic setting for Verdi?" and introducing us to the wonderful performances available from Glyndebourne. Particularly interesting for theatre fans is when the Gypsy dance is taking place on stage whilst we see the rehearsal process on the screens; giving us an insight into the backstage process of forming a show. 

Original Glyndebourne Violetta, Marie McLaughlin gives wonderful insight into the vocal variations needed for Verdi compared to other composers as she discusses technique and how solid breath control comes from the feet to the top of the body. Alongside some beautiful vocal demonstrations, Marie also explains how the beauty of Verdi is that he gives everything to you in the music and text which tell you exactly how to feel like the "consumptive" Violetta.

Overall La Traviata: Behind The Curtain is just a whole lot of fun. For music students it will surely provide an invaluable and memorable operatic experience and will inspire more people to participate in and enjoy opera. Glyndebourne should be commended for providing such an accessible operatic night. Here's to many more!

photo credit: Tristram Kenton