As an opera virgin, I leapt at the opportunity to attend the performance of Verdi’s La Traviata by The English National Opera. Opera aficionados often say that La Traviata is one of their favourite operas, so I was very excited to see it first-hand – especially given its location at the gorgeous London Coliseum, a beautiful traditional theatre set in the heart of the West End.
This year marks the 50th year that the English National Opera has been in residence at the London Coliseum. Unlike most operas which are performed in Italian, performances at The English National Opera are in English to ensure they are accessible to everyone.
Behind-the-scenes tour at the London Coliseum
Our evening began with a behind-the-scenes tour of the London Coliseum, which provided us with a glimpse of what happens backstage to bring the magic of the performances to life on stage. Being both in the orchestra pit and behind the stage gave me a newfound sense of appreciation for the wealth of people it takes to create a seamless production.
Indulging in the new spring menu at the American Bar at the London Coliseum
After the tour was complete, we headed to the dining room at the American Bar to try the new spring menu. The petite dining room reminded me a bit of Swiss chalet thanks to its abundance of wooden panelling. Diners can choose from either two courses (£20) or three courses (£25). Starters included: spiced parsnip, coconut and apple soup and toasted pine nuts; baked candied beetroot and heritage carrots with a mango chutney dressing; smoked salmon and Cornish crab parcel, crème fraiche, caviar, orange reduction; seared scallops, butternut squash puree and chorizo, parmesan and rocket oil.
Mains included: Roast chicken breast, raz el hanout couscous, aubergine caviar, smoked yoghurt, pistachio and pomegranate dressing; seared hake fillet, shrimp and mussels, pickled shallots, purple sprouting broccoli; miso roasted sea bream, bok choy, mange tout and enoki mushroom broth; fillet of beef, celeriac puree, cavalo nero, king oyster, red wine and truffle jus; cannellini bean stew, roasted courgette and butternut squash, parsley oil.
All the dishes we tried (the parsnip soup, crab parcels, seared hake and the roast chicken) were delicious and beautifully presented.
La Traviata is a tragic love story about a fallen woman, Violetta, a high-class Parisian prostitute (played by Irish soprano Claudia Boyle), who falls in love a young man named Alfredo (played by tenor Lukhanyo Moyake) who attended one of her lavish parties.
After a whirlwind romance, Violetta and Alfredo leave the chaos of the city for a peaceful life together in the French countryside but alas their happiness was short-lived thanks to Violetta’s ill health (she had tuberculosis) coupled with a forced breakup instructed by Alfredo’s father who feared that her sinful past would prevent Alfredo’s younger sister from marrying into a respectable family.
The entire cast gave a strong performance, although it was Violetta who really drew the audience in thanks to her beauty and emotion-laden vocals. The costumes were also gorgeous - I adored Violetta's elegant satin gowns and the fabulous statement hats she donned!
It's easy to see why this classic opera has been loved for many years. We liked that the performance was in English, which makes it easier to follow - especially for those who are not familiar with the story.
St Martin’s Lane
For a full list of upcoming performances at the English National Opera, visit https://www.eno.org.
*With the exception of the images from Catherine Ashmore all other images copyright of Ashley Miln
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