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Sempre Opera returns to Joburg Theatre with La traviata

Sempre Opera will be staging one of the most popular operas of all time, the heart-breaking, yet beloved classic, Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata from 22 June 2019 on the Mandela Stage at Joburg Theatre.

Joburg Theatre Sempre Opera La traviata
PHOTOS Moné Schalekamp

Based on the 1848 novel, The Lady of the Camellias, by Alexandre Dumas, Verdi’s La traviata tells the story of one of opera’s greatest heroines, the Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry, inspired by the real-life courtesan Marie Duplessis who died in 1847 aged just 23. In the opera, Violetta has sworn off true love until Alfredo Germont walks into her life, loving her passionately. Her life takes a tragic turn when she risks all for a chance at enduring love with him when Alfredo’s father Giorgio forces her to abandon his son to protect his family’s reputation.
     From the frenzy of Violetta’s pleasure-filled life to her heart-wrenching decision to leave her beloved, Verdi’s treasured opera is a captivating tribute to what it means to live and die for love and gives us one of opera’s most glorious heroines, a woman of boundless humanity and emotional depth. This tragic tale is also an important intertextual reference in the Greta Garbo film Camille and, more recently, in Baz Lurhman’s musical film Moulin Rouge, among others.
     Cape Town-based soprano Leah Gunter makes her company and Joburg Theatre debut as Violetta Valéry, the worldly courtesan who has all the men of Paris at her feet. Gunter is a well-accomplished soprano who recently received her Master of Music in Performance at the University of Cape Town. In June 2018, she participated in The Hong Kong International Operatic Singing Competition where she was invited by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa for a master class. Gunter has received numerous nominations and accolades, including a Fleur du Cap Theatre Award nomination in the category for the Best Performance – Female – in an opera for the role of the Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte (Mozart) at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town in 2017.
     The role of Alfredo Germont will be sung by Johannesburg-based tenor Yudi Cohen, who was born in London and studied in the USA and Australia. In 2008, he graduated with a BTech in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria where he was the winning recipient of the Pretorium Trust Award and Absa Merit Award for the Most Outstanding Opera Student.
     Well-known baritone Danie Verster made his professional debut at the Natal Playhouse in 1986 when he sang the role of Giorgio Germont. This will be his sixteenth production of La traviata in the role of Alfredo’s father. In 1989, he departed for Germany where he worked as a soloist at the Freiburg Stadt Theatre until his return to South Africa in 1996. With a Gesangspedagogische Diploma from the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg at the Freiburg University in Germany, Verster has an impressive vocal repertoire that includes various opera roles and oratorio performances.
     Pierre du Toit will be directing La traviata. Du Toit has been involved with cutting-edge voice science technology and has been instrumental in the implementation of the Voce Vista computer-aided voice training system at the Tshwane University of Technology, a system consequently introduced at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and at the most important training centres internationally. Du Toit has directed and designed the sets, costumes and props for operas such as L’elisire d’amore (Donizetti), Hansel und Gretel (Humperdinck), Don Giovanni (Mozart), Faust (Gounod), Falstaff (Verdi), La Cenerentola (Rossini), Così fan tutte (Mozart) and Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart).
     Verdi’s La traviata will be fully staged and sung in Italian with English translations projected. The Capital Chamber Orchestra will be conducted by the talented and award-winning Schalk van der Merwe.
     La traviata will open on 22 June on The Mandela stage at Joburg Theatre with performances on 23, 26, 28 and 30 June 2019. Shows are at 19:30 from 22 to 28 June, and at 15:00 on Sunday 30 June.
Ticket prices range from R200 to R475 and can be booked online by visiting or calling 0861 670 670. There are group booking discounts – please contact the theatre directly for these on 011 877 6853.

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