To celebrate my first week in London, I did what any expat would do – see a show. But not on the West End and not a splashy musical. I had the opportunity to see a press performance of an English language version of La Traviata at The King’s Head Theatre in Islington, a lovely neighborhood in the North of London. An old friend Michael had introduced me to a new friend Natalie, and she invited me to join. The show was put on by the Opera Up Close company, and they mean it when they say up close. The theatre is situated behind the pub, and holds maybe 60 people. We sat in the front row – our toes literally touched the stage.
The company became well known with an English version of La Boheme which went on to win an Oliver award. As an entry point into opera, and as a moving piece in its own right, I found La Traviata to be a lovely piece of theatre. I’ve been to only a few operas, with musicals more my thing. It took me through the first song to really get into it, getting used to every moment sung including the entrances and (usually protracted) exits. The story is simple – Violetta, a “fallen woman,” sacrifices her own happiness for the sake of her lover’s family and future. The setting is the prohibition, with tuxedos and clapper dresses in full effect, and the small stage was versatile for the few set configurations needed.
They have a rotating cast, so I cant be sure which actors were in the roles, but they were all top notch. Violetta and her lover Alfredo had stunning and powerful voices – Violetta admirably singing several passages lying down or fully on her back. The trio of musicians deftly handled the score.
I highly recommend checking out the production. At 10-25 quid, it’s a good deal, and there are no bad seats in the house. There will be a new production of Die Fledermaus in December and I will definitely be attending.
Ever been to an opera in English? What did you think?