Finchley singer Alison Guill decided 18 months ago that she wanted to make a return to opera after having focused on musical theatre for a while, and wanted something she could really sink her teeth into. And, landing the role of Violetta in Opera UK’s new, English version of La Traviata, she has got just that.
“I wanted drama and I’ve got drama,“ laughs the 31-year-old. “I’m so fortunate, it’s such a big role, I can really get into it.“
Opera UK was set up in 2005 to celebrate the wealth of young and up and coming talent in the world of opera and to offer them opportunities to sing major roles early on in their careers. Alison first worked for the company in her first professional job after leaving the Royal Academy of Music, when she played Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte in the company’s inaugural season.
She then moved into musical theatre, starring in the UK national tour of The Sound of Music and Phantom of the Opera in the West End among other productions, before deciding she wanted to return to her main love.
“The emphasis is on the story, it isn’t just us standing there and singing,“ says Alison, who originates from Minnesota in the US and moved to Finchley Central six years ago after growing up in Wales.
“This version is set in Hitler’s Germany, so there’s that underlying threat as well. Violetta is a tragic, high-class courtesan and she’s the mistress of a Nazi officer. She’s a bit of a party girl and she’s dying of consumption so she thinks she may as well enjoy herself, but her boyfriend Alfredo persuades her to embark on a meaningful relationship.
“What I like about Violetta is the fact that she puts on this front that everything’s OK and she’s going to carry on until the illness overcomes her, but underneath she’s very sincere, very earnest. And in leaving Alfredo for his family’s sake, she makes the ultimate sacrifice even though he’s her true love.
“It’s intensely romantic and tragic, there’s so much passion, drama, anger and death – there’s so much for the audience to sink their teeth into, as well as the actors.“
La Traviata is at the Studio Theatre, Rada Studios, Chenies Street, Bloomsbury from November 12 to 15, with Alison playing Violetta on November 13 and 14 at 7.30pm. Details: 020 7307 5060, www.rada.ac.uk, www.operauk.co.uk