Kang Wang as Alfredo and Linda Richardson as Violetta. Pictures: Betina Skovbro

La Traviata

Welsh National Opera

Birmingham Hippodrome


Verdi’s La Traviata is painted black in the wonderfully decadent staging of this famous work by Welsh National Opera.

This revival of David Mcvickers 2009 production is now under the direction of Sarah Crisp with the setting for this tale of tragic love within the walls of the black and gold gilded apartments of Paris in the late 19th century.

Designer Tanya MaCallins uses the invention of huge black drapes which festoon to open, lower and reveal the intimate and open expanses of the changing interiors

They are a perfect metaphor for a woman’s life that is drawing to close and facing its untimely end. Violetta, a courtesan, has been ill but celebrates her return to health with lavish parties, revelling in pleasure.

Unbeknown to her, Alfredo a young man has tended to her during her illness and has fallen in love. He confesses this openly to her and eventually Violetta in return falls for him, selling all she personally owns to support their new country lifestyle.

However Alfredo’s father arrives and pleads with her to let Alfredo go for the respect of his family. She agrees offering him her death as a release from her love. Her then ensuing depression and loss helps speed her illness towards the ultimate sacrifice.

Kang Wang was one of the main prize finalists in the Cardiff Singer of the World in 2017 and it’s easy to see and hear why in playing the role of Alfredo.

There is an exceptional quality in his voice and while there is clearly power and control, he exhibits a soft tenderness in many of the intimate sections. In many of the quieter passages he is capable of judging perfectly the volume needed to express his character’s emotional state against the needs of clarity for his audience.

 Listening to him you feel certain that his talent and tone are very special, which, alongside his acting ability here, made for a very convincing portrayal of his character.

In the central role was Linda Richardson as Violetta whose voice is capable of fully rising above a powerful chorus and orchestra with a magnificent display of precision and control. Her duets with Wang were compelling and every ounce of emotion was drained from the score. When Violetta reluctantly agrees to give up her love a proud countenance and resolve showed through in Richardson’s performance.

Alfredo’s father Giorgio was sung by Roland Wood who equally commanded the role with a patronally performance and great strength.

There seemed a unique connection with conductor James Southall who, while directing the complexities of the score and with his musicians and chorus both in front of him and at times backstage, could also quite clearly be seen mouthing the entire text to his singers. A masterly skill and something that seems mind bogglingly complex even for those who are so trained.

For an opera that features some of the most famous arias also has dancing with gypsy women to tempt the men and balletic Spanish matadors all adding colour and vibrancy to the formally dressed partying revellers.

This current production is a return to a more fashionable and formal style of staging for the Welsh National Opera but one where pure exceptional quality is the new Black. To 16-11-18

Jeff Grant



Index page Hippodrome Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre