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La Traviata is en route to the
Canberra Theatre Centre
In the City Spring
here are many nationalities
represented in the touring company
performing OZ Opera’s new
production of Verdi’s La Traviata, but
oddly enough, none are Italian.
OZ Opera director, Rachel McDonald, chews
over the fact with amusement; “Many of the
singers have spent time in Italy refining their
language skills – I’ve often thought it’s a curse for
opera singers to be so fluent in sung Italian but
having so little practical language,” she says.
“We can express our deepest, darkest
desires, proclaim that the evil person is dead
and the village has been freed, but we can’t
ask what time the next train arrives.”
There are no Italians in the performance,
the plot is traditionally set in Paris and the
OZ Opera production is performed in English
to compensate for uncertainty of surtitling
capabilities in certain venues. All this aside,
this particular production of what has always
been hailed as one of the most devastatingly
romantic operas of all time, is true Italiano
headed our way.
“It is everything that romantic Italian opera is
meant to be,” Ms McDonald says.
“Musically, Italian opera is all about great
tunes. They really understood melody, and the
importance of a catchy, memorable phrase.
That’s why so many of the most well-known
opera moments come from Italian operas.
“Italian operas often have exotic settings...
and strongly dramatic plots... The music is
divine, the costumes are gorgeous, the set is
lovely and the orchestra sounds amazing. The
tunes are heartfelt and so are the stories. It’s all
about colour and emotion, and our production
is a good example of that.”
The plot tells the story of Parisian courtesan,
Violetta Valery – a soul torn between the
realities of a money-driven world and her love
for the penniless Alfredo. Themes of love,
death, sacrifice and pretty much everything in
between are thrown into the mix.
“Italians are not scared of emotion. To
appreciate Italian opera you have to go with the
flow,” Ms McDonald says.
Though scaled down in some ways for the
purposes of a touring opera, this production
will be fully staged with a complete set, lights,
wigs, costumes and a chamber orchestra. The
casting is done by the same Opera Australia
artistic staff that cast for main-stage shows.
Each part of the production has been built to
the same standard and by the same workshop
as Opera Australia productions that are staged
at the Sydney Opera House and the State
Theatre in Melbourne.
“Essentially, what Canberra audiences
can experience is an Opera Australia-quality
production, reduced in scale to be practical for
touring but retaining the essence of a national-
standard production,” Ms McDonald says.
“If you’ve been to La Traviata before, you
know how powerful this opera is. If you’ve
never been to an opera, it’s a ripper of an
opera to start with.”
Catch Oz Opera’s new production of La
Traviata at Canberra Theatre Centre from
They’re your barbers, your
restaurateurs and your mates
– Canberra’s Italian community
has firmly stamped itself on the
city’s business, cultural and social
landscape. BY DIONE VAN-HEER
Italian opera OZ-style
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