Gauteng Opera presents Verdi’s La Traviata

Gauteng Opera is thrilled to announce that it will be performing its first full-length opera in concert, Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata on Saturday 6 June 2015 at the Wits Great Hall in Braamfontein.
The opera company, previously known as the Black Tie Ensemble, is presenting a concert version of this heartbreakingly beautiful opera courtesy of funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF).
This special one-off concert performance of one of the most popular operas in the classical repertoire is sure to be a sumptuous treat, with seasoned South African opera professionals such as soprano Bronwen Forbay (who is currently performing in America) and baritone Aubrey Lodewyk sharing the stage with Gauteng Opera soloist Phenye Modiane (tenor).
The soloists, as well as the Gauteng Opera Orchestra and Gauteng Opera Chorus, will perform under the baton of renowned Dutch conductor Arjan Tien. La Traviata will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.
According to Gauteng Opera’s Chief Executive Officer, Marcus Desando, ‘we chose to do La Traviata in concert as it has all the elements of a great opera, from beautiful singing to drama and characters that will resonate with Gauteng audiences. We as a company are very excited about this opera because it will be proudly South African, living up to our motto of “Opera for Everyone”.’
‘Furthermore, we are proud to be able to offer the Gauteng opera-loving public a full-length opera again in the form of this concert version of La Traviata,’ he adds. ‘We are planning more such productions while looking forward to the remainder of our jam-packed 2015 season.’
Verdi’s opera is based on La dame aux Camélias, an 1852 play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas. The opera was originally titled Violetta, after its tragic heroine, and the libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave.
The story tells of Alfredo, a young nobleman, and Violetta, a courtesan, who fall passionately in love. Alfredo’s father disapproves of their relationship and convinces Violetta to leave Alfredo for the sake of his family’s reputation. Alfredo is distraught and enraged, and publicly humiliates Violetta at a party. What no-one realises, however, is that Violetta is gravely ill…
Verdi was allegedly inspired to compose the opera after seeing the play during a visit to Paris in 1852. Like the play, he wanted his opera to be staged in modern dress, locating the story firmly in (his) present, but the authorities insisted that the production be set in the previous century.
When it debuted in March 1853 in Venice, the production was famously described by the composer as ‘a failure’, with the audience apparently unimpressed by the singing of the baritone and tenor. There was also some criticism regarding the role of Violetta, which was taken by a soprano felt to be too old and voluptuous to play a young and sickly consumptive. ‘Was the fault mine or the singers’?’ wrote Verdi regarding its failure. ‘Time will tell’.
When the production was staged (with some revisions) in May 1854, it created a furore (this time positive) and was considered a great success, largely attributed to the performance of Maria Spezia-Aldighieri’ in the role of Violetta. It went on shortly thereafter to Vienna and London.
In its day, La Traviata raised some hackles due to its ‘morally questionable’ content: in England, leaders of the church attempted to ban it, and the Queen refused to attend, ‘though the music, words and all, were not unheard at the palace,’ quotes Wikipedia. Nevertheless, it has gone on to become one of the best loved operas of all time.
Opera enthusiasts are urged not to miss this rendering of one of the world’s all-time greatest operas, with its many memorable arias and its famous ‘drinking song’, performed by the very best in local operatic talent. The concert version of La Traviata starts at the Wits Great Hall at 20:00 on 6 June, and tickets are available through Computicket.

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