Ermonela Jaho in ‘La Traviata’ by Opera Australia will crush you
It’s funny; Hollywood movies these days try so hard, pour-in millions of dollars and use some of the world’s greatest ‘talent’ to have the same affect on you as the script of an opera written 154 years ago does. Such is the power of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata on show at the moment by Opera Australia.
Sure, movies make a lot more physically explode on screen, but the storyline of protagonist Violetta Vallery is played so delicately by Ermonela Jaho (until 18 February) from the flutteringly high notes so fine they almost cease to exist to the base-like inflections that allow you to literally feel the pain, she almost explodes, too.
The story of La Traviata (‘The Fallen Woman’) encircles that of a young, beautiful woman (Violetta), whose tumultuous affairs in love throw her personal life into chaos before a heart-shattering end. From the outset, Violetta’s propensity for the luxurious bourgeois lifestyle to which she is accustomed is evident. The wonderful world of her parlour from which she hosts lavish parties, to the ostentatious manner in which she lives her life are all indicative of a person under pressure to maintain an image, all the while teetering on the dissolution of the image she works so hard to maintain.
Couple the fleeting nature of the to-and-fro of the romantic pursuits she finds herself in between suitors Alfredo Germont (Ho-Yoon Chung) and Baron Douphol (Adrian Tamburini) and the fact that Violetta is ravished by tuberculosis, makes for a dramatic unfolding of affairs that Jaho’s emotional investment in is nothing short of encapsulating.
She has adopted the role numerous times now and maintains that to-date, cries every time. It’s easy to see why.
“When I am on stage, it’s like, I am Violetta. And it’s like it’s the first and last day of my life on that stage,” said Jaho.
Sure, the first and last days of anyone’s life could be worse spent anywhere but the strikingly beautiful performance sets designed by Michael Yeargan and lit so romantically by Nigel Levings. The wreak of claustrophobic opulence in Act I, autumnal desolation in Act II and sparse tragedy of the third act that leaves the set all but bare are enough to transcend the reality of the seat of the audience and absorb all emotional investment into the turmoil within of Violetta.
“In my mind, performing Violetta is like a catharsis; it’s unbelievable. Every night it’s unique and I want – because I love it so much – I want to live it 100 per cent,” she said.
“My colleagues say sometimes, ‘Who cares about tomorrow? Who knows what’s going to happen? Nothing is going to be forever and it’s only a matter of time before I stop [singing] one day.’ I will stop one day, so I have to apply as much of myself to my character as possible and allow her to apply as much of herself to me.”
The result? It might be a new set, new cast and reinvigorated performance, but Jaho’s setting a new bar high in the Violetta repertoire. And if a standing ovation (the first for the season on opening night by Opera Australia!) is anything to go by, it appears it’s more than well-received.
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