Powerful. Courageous. In the round, in your face; this is Opera the way you’ve never seen it. Raw, open, effortlessly beautiful and no longer confined to the dusty old Opera houses where youthful aristocrats were more interested in charming and cajoling their way into young countesses’ boxes…the ‘Tinder’ of the bygone era’s rich and powerful children; but no longer.
At last, arriving on Australian shores, is Opera of today, Opera intended to engage, Opera you can reach out and touch. Opera at street level. That is certainly not to say “dumbed down”, for unfortunately much of Australia’s “cultural elite” still perceive Opera to be enshrouded in that cancer of all things creative; tradition. They happily ignore the
fact that it was once merely an elitist’s pastime and a platform to pursue the debauchery that their dandy kind is now known for. The electrifying awe and grueling artisanship required to create what the thrill-seeking patrions were blissfully ignoring on the stage was lost on them.
For decades now, in Europe and part of the US, certain independent and even amateur companies have been working to repair Opera’s tainted image, and finally show the contemporary audience what it’s all about. As for Australia, enter BK Opera.
Started last year, with “Carmen”, performed in a local pub, BK Opera is finally opening the doors of hallowed theatrical ground for the general public, not just for audiences who may be curious to seek out their first experience, but to performers who might otherwise have spent years auditioning in front of exclusive groups and companies just to gain that first taste of experience in a principal role. As always, where the floodgates are opened thusly, BK Opera have inadvertently brought a cast of supreme ability
to their third production, Guiseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata”.
Arguably one of the most famous Operas, director Kate Millett demolished any reservations there might be had about a so-called “amateur” group performing such a venerated piece by thrusting, like the medium, out of the mahogany hued cabinet of the sooty academe and right into the eager laps of her audience. The story, based upon Alexandre Dumas’ novel Le Dame aux Camélias, is of a beautiful courtesan Violetta Valery and her doomed (of course) love affair with Alfredo Germont, and is injected
with energy from the chorus, intimacy from the layout of the stage and dripping with sexuality from the artful choreography. All doubt is shed long before the opening chords of Libiamo ne’lieti Calici.
The format did, however, allow for one small faux pas: the English titles on the rear projection might have been a tremendous, and unnecessary, distraction, but for one magnetic element which was only looked away from under the greatest duress: Rada Tolchana, in the role of Violetta, carried such a powerful presence, effortless poise and heart-stopping beauty that she might have stolen the show, were it not for the excellence of her costars, notably Patrick MacDevitt in the role of alfredo.
A magnificent experience. Do not miss out on BK Opera, especially if you’ve never considered yourself “an opera person” as this company will surely change your mind.
Review by Max Davine
Photo Credits: Glen Wilson of GW photography
Editor: Crystal Corocher Good Vibes Melbourne
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