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Young people have their say in the arts

Reviews of La traviata written by young winners of our recent competition.

By Katie Vernon-Smith (Former Digital Learning Producer)

3 November 2011 at 4.27pm | 2 Comments

Everyone has an opinion about ballet and opera. We all love to critique production we have just seen. A few are lucky enough to do this full time and earn their living by reviewing. With the explosion of social media over the previous few years however, the area of criticism has been opened up to a wider audience. In a recent blog for The Ballet Bag, dance critic Ismene Brown mused that "the handful of specialist arts critics whose reviews hold sway over public opinion, is being volubly challenged by the voices of the people".

One group that are reaping the rewards of the democratisation of criticism are young people with websites such as The People Speak and A Younger Theatre encouraging them to engage in debate issues within the arts as well as review.

With this in mind, we wanted to hear from our young audience after they watched a performance of La traviata and invited them to send us their reviews, offering the winners the chance to have their review published on our our News section. 

Congratulations to Molly Teague and Alice O’Mahony for their reviews, published below. A special commendation also goes to joint-entrants Liam Meade and Emily Bagridge who were runners up. Financial Times Arts critic Richard Fairman liked their piece a lot, commenting that it was a "nicely written personal memento of an evening at the opera”.

Thank you for sending us your reviews. We love hearing your responses so please don't hold back on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

What I love is coming in and seeing the big huge velvet curtains and all the lights shining in the Royal Opera House.  The opera La Traviata is by Verdi and is about a lady called Violetta who has parties every night.  The conductor was Jan Latham-Koenig, the director was Richard Eyre, and this was the schools’ matinee performance.

The first scene was a very lavish party with many guests and beautiful costumes.  The music was very joyful with lots of violins and some percussion.  Everyone was having fun drinking and singing – the drinking song is one of the most famous songs in the opera.  Alfredo and Violetta fall in love.

The next scene was placed in Alfredo and Violetta’s living room and Alfredo was getting ready to go to Paris because he didn’t want Violetta selling her jewels. When he left, his father came and told Violetta to leave Alfredo but she begged to stay – their duet really reflected this, with her part sounding sad and desperate, very different to Alfredo’s father who sounded serious and constant.

The next scene I loved the most, it was another huge party, where the set was all rosy red colours and Violetta had on a big black dress.  She had left Alfredo.  But Alfredo came to the party and he was so angry to see her there that he threw lots of money he had won from the Baron at Violetta’s feet.  The way he sang sounded like he hated her and she fell down in despair, her singing was soft and upset.  The music was dramatic.

In the last scene Violetta is dying and her maid is very worried about her, she was trying to get her to go to bed.  Violetta’s singing sounded quite weak as she was so ill.  Then Alfredo arrived and they sang a duet together for the last time.  The duet was happy because they were together again and they repeated each other as if they were imagining life together again, but it was also very sad: the music was soft, sweet and sad.  I thought it was a bit strange as one moment Violetta seemed to be almost dead and then she kept coming back to life to sing once more.  Eventually she fell into Alfredo’s arms and died.  The music was very quiet, the violins and cellos sounding softer and softer until the end.

Molly Teague, Year 5


The spell binding performance of Verdi’s romantic opera, La Traviata, directed by none other than Richard Eyre, captivated even the youngest of the school-aged audience at the schools matinee on Friday 30th September 2011. The Royal Opera House was brought to life the moment the violins’ bows made delicate contact with their strings. Projected images of Violetta as a young child, sung by an assured Marina Poplavskaya silenced and enthralled the audience immediately.

Lavish and spectacular set designs captured the imagination of the audience, especially in Act 1 where the drinking song introduced both Poplavskaya and JamesValenti as Alfredo Germont. Poplavskaya made the role of Violetta her own with great conviction and authority. The Russian soprano dazzled on the high notes as she effortlessly performed the coloratura. On the other hand, I felt Valenti struggled to be heard over the exuberant orchestra, especially in the first two acts. His voice, although possessing a beautiful light tenor tone quality, had less conviction and power than his father in the opera, Giorgio Germont sung by Leo Nucci who conveyed a great air of authority.

The audience was successfully transported from a grand Parisian home in Act 2, scene 1 to a breathtaking gambling room in Act 2, scene 2. Both the dancers and the chorus came to life under the clever lighting in Act 2, scene 2 and with the additional presence of the gypsy dancers you almost believed you were a guest at the party yourself! The energy that radiated from the stage was completely fixating and it made the final act seem even more tragic in contast.

Stunning costumes, beautiful set designs and world-class singing and acting made this performance unmissable, but of course Verdi’s masterpiece could not have been achieved without the great music produced by conductor Jan Latham – Koenig and the spectacular performance by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Every movement Latham – Koenig made, conveyed great enthusiasm and passion; however, in some cases, the orchestra seemed rather unresponsive to his highly expressive directions.

The last scene was simply spine tingling and succeeded in touching even the hardest of hearts! Poplavskaya demonstrated a real sense of vulnerability in her mature voice and I feel it was here where Valenti’s voice was perfectly suited as Violetta tragically dies in his arms.

Alice O’Mahony, Year 13

By Katie Vernon-Smith (Former Digital Learning Producer)

3 November 2011 at 4.27pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged compeititon, Education, La traviata, opera, Reviews, schools

This article has 2 comments

  1. Terrific to read these heartfelt reviews, and to know we have new audiences on the way.

  2. Jo Dixon responded on 4 November 2011 at 5:33pm Reply

    Sounds spellbinding and makes me feel as if I would love to have been there to witness the thrills. Sounds as if we have a new music critic in the making here and so refreshing to hear young people enthuse!

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