Northern Ireland Opera (NIO) is set to stage a major new production of Verdi’s La traviata (The Fallen Woman, 1853) at the Grand Opera House in Belfast this September – the first opera to be performed there since the £12.2 million restoration of this 125-year-old building. The venue was officially reopened on 23 March 2022 by His Royal Highness Prince Charles.
La traviata tells the story of the tragic love between the courtesan Violetta Valéry and the romantic Alfredo Germont. Falling hopelessly in love at a party at Violetta’s Parisian home, the two leave the dizzying heights of Paris society for the country, where for a short time they live in blissful happiness.
However, their love affair threatens to shame Alfredo’s family name. His father confronts Violetta to try to get her to leave Alfredo, to save his family name and the reputation of his sister. In an act of self-sacrifice Violetta agrees to leave her one true love and ends up paying the ultimate price.
Verdi’s beautiful music is set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. The opera is based on La Dame aux camélias, a 1852 play by Alexandre Dumas adapted from his own novel of the same name, written in 1848. The story is closely based on the French courtesan Marie Duplessis, the real life lover of the novelist. Verdi’s work followed soon after the play and today is one of the most frequently performed of all operas.
The part of Violetta will be performed by Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg, making her role debut with NIO. Stagg has performed for companies including the Royal Opera, Staatsoper Berlin, Baverische Staatsoper, Hamburg Staatsoper and Opernhaus Zurich.
This new production is directed by NIO’s artistic director Cameron Menzies. Conductor Rebecca Lang returns to Belfast following her work on NIO’s production of La bohème (The Bohemians, Puccini, 1896) in autumn 2021; this time she will lead the Ulster Orchestra.
Choreographer Isabel Baquero will also be joining the creative team. She has previously worked on stage and screen, for companies including the Royal Opera, Scottish Opera, Garsington Opera and on films including Wonder Woman and Happy-Go-Lucky.
Twenty-four artists from across the whole of Ireland will form the chorus for La traviata. Following a selection process that took place earlier this year, the performers will take part in NIO’s new chorus development programme, which will run throughout the summer. The scheme will give participants professional and performance training from internationally renowned conductors, chorus masters, choreographers and directors, helping them to develop their singing careers.
Further cast and creative team details for La traviata are yet to be announced.
Performances take place between 10 and 17 September. Tickets are available now, costing £15-49.50.
Northern Ireland Opera has also announced that its Outreach Week will return this year for the first time since 2019. The company will be running a week of creative and musical activities in the Grand Opera House during the week of 5-9 September. Aimed at schools, youth and community groups and choirs, these events are made possible by the generous funding and support of the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Part of NIO’s work with communities across Northern Ireland, Outreach Week is a series of free creative workshops, Come and Sing events and pop-up performances. Access to NIO’s open dress rehearsal for La traviata is also on offer. The programme is open to youth, school and community groups. Any such groups which might be interested in attending any of the events should contact Caolan at email@example.com.
Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg makes her role debut as Violetta in Northern Ireland Opera’s new production of Verdi’s La traviata (Todd Rosenberg).