Review – La Traviata

May 9 2013 | By More

* * *  Trills and thrills

Oscar de la Tour (Alfredo, left) with Taylor Wilson as Flora and, seated, Rachael Brimley as Violetta in Edinburgh Grand Opera's production of La Traviata. Photo © Kitty Douglas Himilton.

Oscar de la Tour (Alfredo, left) with Taylor Wilson as Flora and, seated, Rachael Brimley as Violetta. Photo © Kitty Douglas-Himilton.

King’s Theatre
Wed 8 – Sat 11 May 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

The trills come thick and fast in the opening act of La Traviata, Verdi’s intimate take on the tale of consumptive courtesan Violetta and her doomed love for the naive Alfredo.

To the credit of Edinburgh Grand Opera, the trills are delivered at the Edinburgh King’s without too many spills. It is a production which works hard to find the emotional engagement of the main characters – although it also  overdoes the emoting from the chorus.

And when it comes to thrills, they are there in the tensions of the second and third acts when Violetta’s status begins to impact on Alfredo’s family causing his father to persuade her to leave his son. The company brings a real edge to passages which could easily become mundane.

With two casts of principals in this four-night run, the opening night starred RCS graduate Rachael Brimley as Violetta with Mexican tenor Oscar de la Torre as Alfredo and Ivor Klayman as Alfredo’s father, Germont.

Make no mistake, Brimley is a fantastic Violetta. Her voice is light and colourful almost to the top. As she plays the opening scenes, with Violetta meeting and flirting with Alfredo for the first time, you can see exactly why grown men with more money than sense would be throwing themselves at her feet.

If Brimley has a thrill of sensuality about her that promises much, and a demeanour that indicates she is certainly in control, the spills come as she reaches the very top note at the climax of the first Act, which is strained and unduly harsh.

Just the right edge of manic passion

But it is Brimley’s warmth that endures. And, in de la Torre, she has an equally warm and energetic tenor for her Alfredo. He has just the right edge of manic passion about him for the character, with a voice that does justice to the music and looks of the kind that inspire more than a second glance.

The second act, which finds Violetta having given up the courtesan’s life to live in the countryside with Alfredo, really begins to see director Christina Dunwoodie get to grips with the emotion of her performers.

Which is in no little part down to a strong performance from Ivor Klayman as Germont. His duets, first with Violetta as he tries to persuade her to give up his son and then with the son after she has done so, really explore the subtleties of the relationships and the back-and-forth of the arguments.

There are few frills to the production, with designer Annette Gillies making imaginative use of plain diaphanous drapes to suggest the contours of Violetta’s salon. Instead she has focussed on the costumes, particularly the dresses which stand out, ornate, from the background.

Edinburgh Grand Opera is as much about its chorus as its soloists. Director Christina Dunwoodie has done a good job with their voices and the support in that department never needs questioning. It’s in the on-stage movement that things are not quite as they might be.

There is a genuine enthusiasm to perform right through the whole company. The director’s job is to harness that enthusiasm and allow it to shine in a manner which will show it off to the show’s best advantage. An advantage which, during Violetta’s party scene in the first act, is not always obvious.

A production which, while it has its constraints of money and ability, delivers an entertaining evening that finds emotional depth as well as beautiful music.

Running time 2 hours 30 mins.
Run ends Saturday 11 may.
King’s Theatre, Leven Street, Edinburgh.
Tickets available from the King’s Theatre website:
Further details about Edinburgh Grand Opera on their website:
For casting details see Æ preview: A Kiss in the Dreamhouse



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  1. Mike S says:

    Full marks to the chorus and cast on Saturday’s performance. Although, from the dress circle, I found the orchestra a little too loud at times, spoiling the balance.

    Saturday’s Violetta, along with the other principles, was vocally superb. However, her resemblance to Marleen in Only Fools & Horses did distract my attention all too often (my fault not hers).