La Traviata, (The Fallen Woman) is based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, La Dame aux Camelias written in 1852. Unlike the Verdi opera, the ballet choreographed by Veronica Paeper uses the name “Camilla” for the heroine of the story.
The story itself is a fictionalised account of Dumas’ real life love with a courtesan (what we would now term a “sex worker”), Marie Duplessis. She did die of “consumption” or tuberculosis as we call it now.
La Traviata has been in the repertoire of the Joburg Ballet for many years, and the neo-classical ballet is a favourite of many.
Most of the music is from the Verdi opera (and played by the JPO) but it also has additional music by Allan Stephenson, who arranged the whole thing specifically for the ballet.
This season is the final season for Burnise Silvius, Joburg Ballet’s prima ballerina. I was therefore a little surprised and very disappointed that she didn’t dance the role of Camille on opening night. That honour was given to Shannon Glover, the only remaining female principal dancer in the much reduced company.
It was wonderful to see Michael Revie on stage as Armand, with Iain MacDonald as Germont, the father of Armand. Marc Goldberg from Cape Town City Ballet was a dashing Baron Douphol (I wonder if he was really that dashing in real life – I have always visualised him as a rich but unattractive man). It is unusual so see so much male sexiness on one stage at a time. Kitty Phetla was Madame Flora, the … madame of the brothel. Jessica Lombard played the role of Annina, Camille’s maid.
I fear that I will not be able to get a ticket to any of Burnise Silvius’ performances but I will try – a single seat might be a possibilty where a pair would be less likely. I would very much like to see Claudia Monja in the role of Camille. Monja has a wonderful warmth and a real ability to act which I find very appealing. I am disappointed that Nicole Ferreira-Dill is not making her debut in the role this season. With the retirement of Burnise Silvius, Ferreira-Dill moves into that place in my heart reserved for the ballerina I believe to be the finest dancer of the company. It is always a pleasure to watch her dance.
The next season (28 July – 6 August) will be a ballet in collaboration with MIDM and Vuyani Dance Theatre. It is entitled “Big City, Big Dreams”. Mark Hawkins has been working with MIDM dancers and they are looking good. Gregory Mqoma has a particular genius for vibrant dance productions with stunning theatrical value. Watch this space. I will definitely be writing about this very, very exciting project.
After that Iain MacDonald’s brand new full length ballet, Snow White, will premiere. Inside the programme for La Traviata on the credits page is a 2005 photograph of Iain MacDonald as Armand with his wife, Karen Beukes as Camilla. They have children together. MacDonald is a wonderful choreographer and he has a father’s interest in telling magical tales to little girls. I am quite certain that Snow White will be a season to delight. I will be bringing you more news of this as well.
La Traviata’s production team credits for costume and set design go to Peter Cazalet, with co-ordination of the set by Vanessa Nicolau. Lighting is by Simon King. The gorgeous etherial and flowing costumes belong to Cape Town City Ballet. Photos are by Lauge Sorensen.
La Traviata will be at The Mandela, Joburg Theatre until 9 April 2017.