Opera review: La Traviata at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Pub theatre’s fun production of La Traviata punches above its weight

La Traviata – literally ‘The Fallen Woman’ - is an ambitious choice for a small opera company performing in a north London pub. But this sexed-up and surprising production punches above its weight and breathes new life into Verdi’s popular classic.

Featuring a new libretto by the multi-talented Kit Hesketh-Harvey, the action takes place in contemporary London where Violetta is the star of a burlesque club leered after by brash city boys. Alfredo falls in love with her but his father has other ideas and drives them apart.

The nightclub setting allows some of the set piece arias to be staged as cabaret acts, something which works particularly well with the gypsy and matador themed numbers. It also means that the cross-dressing cast look like they are having a riotous amount of fun.

Musically, a small ensemble of keyboard, violin, viola, cello and clarinet, with the odd accordion and saxophone thrown in, feels like a nightclub band, working well with the adapted setting.

The singing is more than a little patchy but there are a few noteworthy performances. Polish Soprano Anna Jeru?-Kope? delivers a powerful Violetta, too powerful at times for the tiny Gatehouse Theatre and its questionable acoustics. She deserves a bigger stage and, on the basis of this performance, it won’t be too long before she gets it. Oliver Brighall’s Gaston is also worth a mention, revelling in his role as the nightclub impresario.

Running until March 3 at the Gatehouse and touring the UK until July 5, this flawed but fun production is certainly worth a visit.

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* La Traviata is at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, in Highgate Village, N6, until March 3.