We caught up with La traviata director Rodula Gaitanou to talk about what the opera means to her, her memories of the acclaimed 2018 run, and her thoughts on staging a revival in extraordinary circumstances.
The clearest thing, when you speak to Rodula Gaitanou, is her passion for La traviata. ‘I have lived with Violetta Valéry and her story for a very long time. It’s a piece I hold very dearly. It’s been accompanying me since I was a child, and kept growing with me… There’s this light inside Violetta as a character, a force that shines from within.’
Gaitanou’s acclaimed production of La traviata originally opened the Opera Holland Park 2018 Season. It was clear even from an early stage that the team had something exceptional on their hands. ‘I remember having this feeling during rehearsals that we were working towards something special, and that feeling peaked when we did our final studio run. There was no set, no costumes; a studio run is a very naked version of the show. But it was a very emotional afternoon for all of us. And I remember at the end there was this silence in the room. It felt as if the whole chorus and company were holding their breath. It was a fantastic feeling.’
The show went on to be a sell-out success, and it’s back again this summer as a revival, although Gaitanou isn’t planning to look at it that way. ‘We’re three years on now. Everyone involved is more mature. Quite a lot of the ideas have evolved. In a way the piece is like a living organism, it keeps growing.’
One of the most noticeable differences this time around will be the influence of social distancing. Gaitanou and the cast will be taking on the challenge of staging a story of romance and intimacy without any physical contact. ‘I want to build something that is emotionally very strong. I want the audience to completely buy what’s happening on stage and not even consider that there might be another way of portraying it.’
Like everyone, Gaitanou is looking forward to the return of live opera after such a strange year. ‘OHP is a very special company for me. It’s a family really. We make great work with great people. The new auditorium is something I’m very much looking forward to. I think it’s important that people feel safe, but it’s all still the same. Still in the most spectacular grounds in the heart of London, in front of the beautiful house. It’s going to be just like coming home.’
Interview by Philippa Peall