You can divide people in all sorts of ways - one of these being ‘Opera People’ and ‘Non-Opera People’.
I fall into the latter category… but in the spirit of exploration, I dipped my toe into this hitherto unexplored world.
And where better to start than at Swindon’s Empire Cinema in Greenbridge - for a live screening of the Royal Opera’s performance of La Traviata?
This was a double first for me, as it was also my first experience of ‘live cinema’ - in which performances are broadcast, as they happen, to hundreds of cinemas dotted around the globe.
Verdi’s La Traviata is one of the clutch of operas that most uninitiated people have heard of...
And the famous duet (Libiamo ne’lieti calici) that crops up in Act 1 is immediately familiar to most people - even if they think that La Traviata is some sort of Italian car. This gave me a way into the piece and allowed me to relax a bit.
Clemency Burton Hill filled the screen and welcomed us to Richard Eyre’s production - before taking the chance for a quick chat with veteran opera legend Placido Domingo who plays a supporting role in the performance.
And as the drama unfolded, I found myself being caught up in the story - the medium of an operatic performance serving to drive the emotional intensity rather than acting as a barrier to the unfolding narrative.
Searing performances by soprano Ermonela Jaho as the female lead Violetta and Charles Castronovo as her smitten suitor Alfredo meant that I was emotionally invested in the fate of the two lovers and was borne along by the unfolding tragedy.
And as the lights came up, it was almost with a sense of shock that I realised that I was sitting in the Empire Cinema - with the stillness of mind that comes from being put through the cathartic mangle.
It was a performance that will stay with me - amazingly I don’t feel it was in any way diminished by the fact that it took place in a cinema. I was genuinely transported - in the way that a flawless artistic performance can do.
Perhaps I’m one of those opera people after all…?
I would urge anyone - even a complete opera novice - to give it a whirl. After all, who doesn't feel a lump in the throat as the strains of Nessan Dorma conjour up memories of Italia '90?
Verdi’s La Traviata tells the story of Alfredo Germont and the courtesan Violetta Valéry who fall in love at a party in Violetta's Paris salon.
Alfredo is determined to cure Violetta of her tuberculosis, and the couple leave Paris and begin a contented life in the country. But Violetta's happiness is destroyed when Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont pays her a visit.
Violetta’s scandalous relationship with Alfredo jeopardises Germont’s daughter’s engagement, and Germont persuades Violetta to leave his son. Heartbroken, Violetta promises not to tell Alfredo why. Alfredo is stunned when Violetta disappears and decides she must have left him from self-interest. He confronts her at a Paris party and leaves her. Only when Violetta is dying does he learn the truth.
The next Royal Opera live screening will take place on Tuesday 19 February 2019 at the Empire Cinema Greenbridge. For further information or to book tickets log on to www.empirecinemas.co.uk
And for further live performances see the Royal Opera's site see https://www.roh.org.uk/events