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La traviata at ENO

February 16, 2015

ArtsMusicPerformance | by Vicky Ilankovan

ENO La traviata 2015, Ben Johnson, Elizabeth Zharoff, Company (c) Donald CooperLa traviata or ‘the fallen woman’ first graced the operatic stage in 1853. Based on La Dame aux Camélias, a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, it is, as you may expect, a touching yet contemporary tragedy.

The English National Opera has just opened its doors to Peter Konwitschny’s Olivier Award-nominated adaptation of La traviata, set to Giuseppe Verdi’s original 19th century composition conducted by Roland Böer.

The three acts of the short opera (under two hours) attempt to epitomise torment and pleasure of a complicated ‘relationship’ between a slowly dying courtesan and her cowardice lover.

In the wonderfully preserved coliseum, the heart of this opera had to be Elizabeth Zharoff as the fallen Violetta. In her debut role, the soprano shone as the complex and fragile character with one heck of a voice.

Violetta surprisingly cherishes her weak Alfredo, performed by Ben Johnson, but we weren’t entirely convinced why she would dig such a man. Luckily Zharoff portrays the highly cultured and intelligent prostitute convincingly. Essentially, La traviata is a tale of society, morality and ‘doing the right’ thing. Sadly it is the heroine, the delicate and maddened Violetta, who does the right thing by not shaming her weak-willed Alfredo.

The performances all round were captivating but we would like to have seen more of a set on stage. This paired down interpretation of La traviata was indeed intentional but after seeing a handful of sensory operas at the brilliant ENO, we were expecting more stage theatrics. A bit more for eyes perhaps?

The last performance of La traviata takes place on 13th March and will be broadcast live in cinemas across the UK and Ireland, at selected cinemas worldwide, as part of the ENO Screen on 11th March, if you don’t get a chance to see it performed live.


Alicja McCarthy

Photos by Donald Cooper


La traviata opens at the London Coliseum on Monday 9th February for 9 performances – Feb 9, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27 & Mar 5, 11, 13 at 7.30pm.

Tickets from £12-£115