A Northern Ireland Opera production, Grand Opera House, Belfast
Director: Cameron Menzies
Conductor: Rebecca Lang
Choreographer: Isabel Baquero
Set designer: Niall McKeever
Lighting Designer: Kevin Treacy
Hair and Make-Up Design: Nuala Campbell
Photography by Philip Magowan and Neil Harrison
'Under a traditional guise, the designs had sharp modern detail, with couture gowns by Linda Britten for Violetta and Flora (Margaret Bridge) and an elegant salon set by Niall McKeever. Suspended overhead were ominous, Rodinesque sculptures, apocalyptic and winged'
'Two powerful visual images sum up Northern Ireland Opera’s sumptuous new version of Verdi’s La Traviata. The first is the publicity image: a delicate, perfectly formed white camellia, its tender heart pierced and bleeding. The second comprises the towering, contorted formations dominating Niall McKeever’s spectacular black-and-white set. They are reminiscent of Maggi Hambling’s controversial sculpture of the 18th-century feminist and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, whose plinth is inscribed with her famous words: “I do not wish women to have power over men but over themselves'
'The one detail that consistently pulls the eye--and tugs at the mind--are several strikingly abstract sculptures. Large and grotesquely twisted, they hang over the protagonists--a metaphor for Violetta’s inner turmoil. Or perhaps they represent the elephant in the room of male hypocrisy, sexism, chauvinism, body-shaming and ageism, present both in Verdi’s time and now'
'Menzies's approach is refreshingly International in tone and temperament, with an emphasis on integrated design, a flair for finding apt visuals, an admirable feeling for balancing intimacy and spectacle. He was greatly helped here by Niall McKeever's dark burnished, chiaroscuro set - a palatial, high walled room with mandala-like flooring, framed by ominously contorted, wraith-like figures and atmospherically shadow-lit by Kevin Tracy'
'The set is an impressive domestic interior, painted black with added giant abstract shapes high up on each side, like massive twists of solidified wax. Maybe it is a reference to a scorched, diseased society, or the central character’s psyche'
'This new production was dominated by Niall McKeever’s set which consisted of an imposing circular drawing room with an elaborately tiled floor. Decorative wraith-like features seemed to hang in the air creating an ominous portent of doom. This was another great production from Northern Ireland Opera which deserves to be seen much more widely'
'As the darker elements of the opera reveal themselves, the sculptures feel more ominous, gradually becoming the visual manifestation of Violetta’s inner turmoil...'
'The walls of Niall McKeever’s crucible set are distressed, the windows smudged, and what once may have been classy statues and fixtures are instead twisted and melted, hanging ominously from the wall, one with a chair impaled in its mess'