We asked Scottish Opera to tell us what’s so interesting about La Traviata and why it’s the perfect first-timer opera. 

It’s big!

Verdi’s La traviata is a period piece which really does tick all the boxes. Set in late 19th century Paris, there are beautiful gowns and hairstyles for the ladies, and top hats and tails for the gentlemen. Also thrown in are a flamenco dancer or two, glamourous parties, gambling, a heart-rending romance and that all-important tragic ending.

Designer Tanya McCallin’s sumptuous style is evident throughout the production. And, as John Liddell, Scottish Opera’s Head of Costume explains, ‘The scale of opera is rather special. It’s big! For an opera with a chorus, you’re looking at 150-200 costumes. If it’s a period production, all those costumes are going to have to be made from scratch.’

You might recognise a tune or two

Verdi’s masterpiece is full of familiar music, the most famous of which is arguably Alfredo’s Brindisi in Act I, a drinking song performed at a party. This is the first opportunity Alfredo has to impress Violetta, his love interest, and set the plot in motion as the couple are drawn to each other. But that’s not all – the drama of the opera is woven through the orchestral playing. Listen out for the oboe in Act III, which mimics Violetta’s voice when she is consumed with illness, and can no longer cry out.

La traviata at the movies

It’s fair to say La traviata has had its share of Hollywood makeovers – the most famous being ‘90s movie Pretty Women. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere star as an unlikely couple, who face a series of obstacles in their relationship. Vivien is completely transfixed when Edward escorts her to the opera for the first time, and they experience La traviata for themselves.

Violetta’s character is also mirrored somewhat in Baz Lurhmann’s bohemian spectacular Moulin Rouge!, where the adored central character Satine faces personal demons in a lifestyle perceived as glamourous. Sofia Coppola made her opera directorial debut with a production of La traviata in 2016, with designer Valentino’s lavish costumes complementing her direction at the Teatro dell ‘Opera di Roma. The production was even broadcast worldwide in cinemas, bringing together the worlds of high fashion, film and, of course, opera to a global audience.

Violetta and Alfredo’s doomed love affair is beautifully told in Sir David McVicar’s renowned production, which has been in high demand worldwide since its Scottish Opera premiere in 2008. But it’s not just the story; Verdi’s dramatic and engaging score is at the core of this heart-breaking production. Join us for a spectacular night at the Festival Theatre!

Book tickets for the magnificent La Traviata, the perfect opera for both first-timers and opera-lovers. We hope to see you during La Traviata at the Festival Theatre: Wed 15, Sun 19, Tue 21, Thu 23 and Sat 25 November. 

New to opera? Immerse yourself in all things opera at La traviata Unwrapped, an hour-long taster featuring the singers, stage crew and orchestra, with a presenter to bring everything together | Thu 16 Nov 6pm Tickets £5.

Thanks to Scottish Opera for writing this guest blog post for the Festival and King’s Theatre.

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