La Traviata: a tale of reckless love, masked revelry, family strife and self-sacrifice

La Traviata

LA TRAVIATA, by Giuseppe Verdi New Zealand Opera

A co-production between NZ Opera, The State Opera of South Australia and Opera Queensland

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre Auckland June 19 - 29

St James Theatre Wellington July 11 – 19

New Zealand Opera opens its 2014 season with La Traviata, Verdi’s most frequently performed opera. Featuring the famous drinking song, Libiamo ne’ lieti calici, and Violetta’s aria of freedom, Sempre libera,

Verdi’s masterpiece is musical storytelling at its most spectacular, combining reckless love, masked revelry, family strife and self-sacrifice.

The opera charts the downfall of the beautiful but frail courtesan, Violetta Valéry who falls for the well-born Alfredo Germont at one of her supper parties. She abandons her life of pleasure for a life in the country.

Alfredo’s father intrudes on their idyllic existence and, although realizing her sincerity, demands that she renounce Alfredo.

Violetta determines to make the sacrifice and departs, leaving only a note for Alfredo.

She appears at a ball in Flora’s house on the arm of an old admirer, Baron Douphol, to the fury of Alfredo. The two men play at cards and Alfredo wins consistently.

Unable to persuade Violetta to go with him, Alfredo insults her and is challenged by the Baron.

Violetta falls ill and all her friends desert her, leaving her virtually penniless. Alfredo at last returns.

His father has told him of Violetta’s noble renunciation and urged him to seek her forgiveness.

Overjoyed at the sight of him, Violetta seems to recover, only to die in Alfredo’s arms.

This new production, co-produced with The State Opera of South Australia and Opera Queensland, is created by the Australian trio who brought audiences last year’s beautiful and memorable Madame Butterfly – director Kate Cherry and the design team of Christina Smith and Matt Scott.

The role of Violetta, one of the great soprano roles of the repertoire, will be sung by Australian Lorina Gore, a singer who combines brilliant vocal ability with a compelling stage presence.

Her lover, Alfredo Germont, will be sung by the young Australian, Samuel Sakker, who will make his NZ Opera debut in this production, as will Scottish baritone David Stephenson as Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont.

Included in the cast are several New Zealanders, with Jared Holt as Baron Douphol, Wade Kernot as Marchese d’Obigny and, sharing Gastone, Oliver Sewell and Andrew Grenon.

Wendy Doyle sings Annima, with Laurence Walls and Andrew Grenon sharing the role of Giuseppe. Completing the line-up is Australian David Hibbard as Doctor Grenvil.

The production will feature the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington, with both orchestras conducted by the Italian-American Guido Ajmone-Marsan, who was last conducted the orchestras in 2010 with Macbeth

NZ Opera's new general manager, Stuart Maunder, says  the company "has just entered a most exciting phase in its development and is now a truly national company, with major local involvement; choruses, orchestras. No other company in the world plays three major centres, and it's a model that works brilliantly here.

All centres are proud of the brand, all belong to the brand and all own the brand. Now we just need to get the brand out there into more of the country.”

“We proudly champion the opera as a very special entertainment; an event, if you like. Nobody else in the sector does what we do ... the glamour, the pathos, the pain, the souring melodies, the theatricality... and that's not even on the stage! Opera is big stuff; big emotions writ large. And we appeal to the widest possible audience.

"Opera doesn’t need to be one style or another, just to be what is right for the time. Our audiences respond equally well to modern or traditional productions, top 10 repertoire or less well known. What matters is that we treat the operas with respect, allow the piece to live. That's our job.”

“The three operas in the repertoire for 2014 – La Traviata, Don Giovanni and La Boheme in Christchurch, are among the greatest achievements of mankind, let alone of opera specifically. We have a duty to bring these pieces before the public, and as the public is constantly changing, there will be many more major operas, all reflecting the creative team and cast that create each one  at the time, for the time.”

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