Ok, we’re going to level with you – we don’t normally spend our Thursday nights at the Opera. In fact we’ve only ever been once before, about 10 years ago. It was hot, we’d had too much wine, and we’ll admit to nodding off.
So when the invitation came through to see the ENO’s production of La Traviata (yep, the one in Pretty Woman) we thought it was time to give it another go.
With 2,359 seats, the London Coliseum is the largest theatre in London and whilst you could totally get dressed up a la Julia Roberts you equally wouldn’t look out of place in jeans and a t-shirt. It’s not as expensive as you might think either – each show has 500 tickets available for £20 or less (with some as low as £12) – in a bid to make opera more accessible for all. I mean, that’s the same price as going to Hackney Picturehouse!
The performance starts at 7.30pm so after a whistle-stop tour backstage, we sat down to dinner in the wood panelled American Bar. You know the British high-street café Benugo? Well they do the catering here. They also look after the V&A, Barbican etc. so they’re pros in this area. All the food is unique to this restaurant, made in house by the small team and when you consider there’s only one sitting (due to the performance starting) it’s not bad at all. We tucked into seared scallops with butternut squash puree and chorizo, parmesan and rocket oil before moving onto seared hake with shrimp, mussels and purple sprouting broccoli. Service is really attentive and professional and before you whizz off to watch the show, they take your order for dessert and serve that in the first interval, with tea and coffee available in the final break. It’s great, you just go back to the same seat so there’s no waiting around or confusion – well worth eating here for that alone.
The production starts with a bang. A gang bang to be specific. A debauched party with champagne, sex and beautiful people. It’s gaudy and fabulous and silly – we wanted to be right up there in the action. There was clearly no chance we were going to fall asleep tonight. If you’re not familiar with the plot, Violetta (played by Irish soprano Claudia Boyle) and Alfredo (tenor Lukhanyo Moyake) fall madly in love but unfortunately as she’s a high-class hooker, it brings shame on the family so she has no choice but to bugger off, leaving them both heartbroken. Will it end happily ever after? What do you reckon? The set changes kept us fixated, and watching a diverse cast on stage felt very fitting for an opera taking place in 2018.
The opera is performed in English, however certain words can still be a little tricky to understand. So we were delighted to see the words were being beamed out above the stage ‘karaoke style’ – although you defiantly shouldn’t join in. You won’t spend the whole evening reading though, once you’ve got into the rhythm of it, it’s surprisingly easy to follow.
So yeah, although you’d totally be forgiven for thinking opera isn’t for you, maybe, just maybe La Traviata is the one to change your mind.
I think it’s clear we’re not professional opera critics – but we had a great time, and as with food and wine – that’s really all that matters.