Guest Review: La Traviata, ENO

Verdi’s La Traviata is a firm favourite of many opera lovers: rich, languid music narrating a tragic love story of sacrifice, separation and sickness.

These themes are perfectly encapsulated within the painfully beautiful overture, and in this production the curtain remained down throughout, allowing the audience to enjoy the shimmering clarity of the orchestra undistracted. From the start these musicians brought subtle flair and diversity of colour to their rendition of the score, following the singers with sensitivity and assurance.

La Traviata

Making his debut as Artistic Director of the ENO, Daniel Kramer has attempted to update La Traviata, bringing the setting forward 100 years to the early 20th century – but when specifically is unclear. Loose, visual references to the last century obscure the plot, which relies on a specific cultural context for coherence. Modernisation of the narrative backdrop lacks nuance, and supposed signifiers for the 20th century are muddled, over-sexualised and jarring with the story of a love forbidden by 19th century social convention. A successful updating of La Traviata requires a careful socio-historical understanding of this 19th century setting and how it can be coherently converted into a specific modernised equivalent. There doesn’t appear to be any artistic or intellectual reason for Kramer’s recontextualisation, and the darker themes of vulnerability and isolation present in the opera are overlooked in favour of lavishness and vulgarity, which alienate the audience, preventing full emotional sympathy with the protagonists.

La Traviata

Irish Soprano Claudia Boyle gives a controlled, virtuosic performance as Violetta, manoeuvring the score with dexterity, and her voice possesses a soft youthfulness, at times perhaps too muted, but at others appropriately sweet and gentle. Her onstage counterpart, Lukhanyo Moyake is vocally powerful as Alfredo, but had moments of technical instability, and together they lack chemistry. There was a sense that the three-dimensionality of their characters had not been fully explored, and therefore their love story was deficient of profundity and poignancy. Despite this, there were instances of great atmospheric impact, such as in the third act, where a dimly lit, mostly empty stage is filled momentarily with carnival goers. Darkly clothed figures emerge and surround the dying heroine before disappearing again into the shadows. It is a conceptually strong and visually beautiful innovation from Kramer, showing what can be achieved when the material is well handled.

This production of La Traviata was at times moving and rousing, but it is unfortunate that the emotional impact was dampened by some clumsy aesthetic and directoral decisions.

La Traviata continues at the ENO until 13 April, book tickets here.

Written by Eloise Kenny-Ryder.

Aladdin, Prince Edward Theatre

Aladdin the Musical is a kid’s show, with a fairytale storyline and larger than life characters. Despite this the London production of the musical keeps the adults in the audience entertained with up-to-date remarks and witty jokes.

The show is housed in the great Prince Edward Theatre, which has a dazzling art deco auditorium and seats well over 1500 people. The musical is based on the 1991 hit film with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin. The storyline is basic, so instead we are left to marvel at the 350+ lavish costumes and energetic dance routines.


I went to see the show last week and was impressed by the sheer grandeur of the production. The musical starts slowly with the introduction of street urchins Aladdin and friends. They survive by stealing food from local street vendors and spend their life running from the police. Innocent-faced Matthew Croke makes a convincing lead role, deftly dancing about the stage and singing with likeable charm.

The show really comes to life when Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie comes on stage. Trevor previously performed in the Broadway production of Aladdin and has won numerous awards for his infectious and entertaining rendition of the Genie. He immediately commands your attention and I loved watching him perform. Jasmine was played by Jade Ewen, who although brilliant at acting and dancing, lacked in the vocal department.

The Aladdin orchestration is big and bold with a particularly strong brass section, which gives the music a real oomph and the constantly evolving set thrills throughout. Aladdin is a ‘show’ in every sense of the word, and if you visit the theatre for razzle dazzle, you’ll love this production.

More information and book tickets here. Aladdin is currently showing in London until 30th June 2018.

Marnie, ENO

Sadly I don’t make it to the opera as much as I used to, but when something special comes up in the English National Opera programme I always prioritise it in my diary.

Nico Muhly is a young and talented composer, his first opera Two Boys premiered at the ENO in 2011, and was later taken to The Met in New York. Marnie, this third and most recent opera, is based on Winston Graham’s novel of the same name. The plot follows the story of a young woman who makes her living embezzling and stealing from her employers before moving on and reinventing herself.

Marnie, ENO

Muhly’s score is dramatic and sensual. Unlike many modern operatic scores Marnie has passages of lyrical melodies and twinkling orchestral textures. For the majority of the piece it is Sasha Cooke as the manipulative Marnie and Daniel Okulitch as Mark Rutland, her desperate husband on stage. Neither character is warm or lovable, although they are both utterly compelling and addictive to watch, mastering Muhly’s difficult score and commanding the stage. It was also a pleasure to see Lesley Garrett back on stage at the Coliseum, one of the first opera singers I ever saw perform. Her wholehearted characterisation of Mrs Rutland was very enjoyable to watch, and Garrett’s voice seems as effortless as ever, in her third decade performing at this venue.

The composer offers each protagonist an instrument, Marnie’s motif is played by the oboe, troubled and expected, the leering Terry is allocated a powerful trumpet part. It is the choral parts that I relished the most though. The writing is expressive and exciting and the ENO chorus give gusto and energy to the writing. It is also thanks to solid playing from the orchestra and superbly musical conducting from Martyn Brabbins.

It is impossible to write about Marnie without mentioning the stylish and slick production, staging and costumes. I wasn’t surprised to discover that all the costumes were sponsored by Mr Porter. Set in England in the 1950s, costume designer Arianne Phillips has gone to town with bright, sharp tailored outfits throughout the show.

It is a joy to see and hear Marnie on stage. As ever ENO are at the forefront of showcasing the brightest new opera in the music world.

More information and book tickets to see Marnie at the ENO on one of the final performances (1st and 3rd December) here.