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Kristy Swift as Violetta and Harry Kersley as Alfredo.

Kristy Swift as Violetta and Harry Kersley as Alfredo.

Opera South East presents Verdi’s popular La Traviata

Opera South East brings Verdi’s immensely popular opera La Traviata to the White Rock Theatre this weekend, in a production set in the run-up to World War One, when the world will be changed for ever. Nick Terdre reports. Photos by Mark Duncan.

First performed in 1853 in Venice, La Traviata is one of Verdi’s most popular operas and the most frequently performed of all operas.

“Aching to belong yet desperate to be free, Violetta finds herself trapped in a dying body just as a youthful and ardent lover gives her very existence new meaning,” says the company in a summary of the plot.

“As her life fades away, memories of the recent past swirl before her. Set against the backdrop of a Paris about to be changed for ever, this production of the most beloved of all operas promises to be both poignant and exciting.”

The cast will be led by Australian soprano Kristy Swift, who debuted with Opera South East last year and now returns to perform the role of Violetta. Her fellow countryman and bass David Woloszko returns to sing the role of her doctor.

While many other principals are also back, the company is joined by new talent in the shape of Harry Kersley, Arthur Coomber and Oscar Smith.

Kenneth Roberts conducts the Sussex Concert Orchestra, and the production is directed by Fraser Grant, who has set it in the years leading up to World War One.

Track record

This production is the 56th performed by Opera South East at the White Rock Theatre since 1983. It has three previous productions of La Traviata, with three different directors, under its belt, in 1986, 1996 and 2004.

OSE chairman John Rycroft receives the award for Best Opera 2018 from NODA's South East district representative Anne Lawson.

OSE chairman John Rycroft receives the award for Best Opera 2018 from NODA’s South East district representative Anne Lawson.

Last year the company put on a production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, for which it has just won the National Operatic and Dramatic Association’s South-East region award for Best Opera 2018.

There will be a pre-show talk by the director and cast members at 6pm on Saturday 13th April. This is free and open to all ticket holders from both evenings.

“The basic premise of our Traviata is very simple,” writes Fraser Grant. “We begin at the end and end where we began.

”The character of Violetta Valerie is based largely on the real life courtesan Marie Duplessis, who was the mistress of many prominent men, including Alexandre Dumas fils, who made her the central figure of his novel La Dame Aux Camelias, which inspired this opera.

“Although Duplessis lived a rich and extravagant life, she died in poverty and most of her belongings were auctioned off to pay her debts and funeral expenses.

”This fact haunted me; the idea that our life is just a series of collecting and passing on: lovers, possessions, ideas and life. Almost nothing is sacred. The one thing we have and can hold onto is our memories.

Party on - but 1914 is just round the corner...

Party on – but 1914 is just round the corner…

“So this production is one long memory. As Violetta enters the final stage of her illness, and her belongings are being auctioned off, taken away, sold on to pay for the life she is about to say farewell to forever, certain small objects and possessions trigger the intense memories of the final seven months of her life – the months where she finally found something to live for.

“I chose to set the piece in the lead-up to World War One because I felt this echoed Violetta’s life. Paris is having its last hurrah before it is plunged into darkness and the world is changed forever. People are partying hard before the inevitable happens. The ‘gay old world’ is about to give way to something much more modern, cynical and uneasy.”


La Traviata by Guiseppe Verdi, performed by Opera South East with Sussex Concert Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Roberts. Friday 12 and Saturday 13 April, 7.30pm, White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings TN34 1JX. Tickets £21, £17 and £13, available from theatre box office or online. Under 16s free if accompanied by an adult.


Posted 19:03 Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 In: Music & Sound

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