The National Opera’s winter season opened in a spectacular manner last Sunday evening, with a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. The performances, which resume tonight, will end on December 7. The National Opera’s latest production of the celebrated operatic work is part of a series of events paying tribute to the great Italian composer, who died 100 years ago. If any of us feels that we owe something to somebody, then I owed a version of ‘La Traviata’ to this theater, said the production’s director Nikos Petropoulos during a press conference last week. The director, who is currently celebrating 30 years of fruitful collaboration with the National Opera, also talked about the way in which he approached the celebrated work as well as the changes he made. Lyrical works such as ‘La Traviata’ have to be treated with tremendous respect, as far as both the music and the composer’s original idea are concerned. The only way in which we can achieve a revival is by getting rid of the pompous manner which used to be an element of opera in the old days. Also at the press conference, maestro Ilias Voudouris offered a few basic facts that the audience ought to know about the work: The opera is part of the popular Verdi trilogy, Rigoletto-La Traviata-Il Trovatore and is based on the story by Alexandre Dumas The Lady of the Camellias, inspired by a Parisian courtesan. While in Dumas’s original version the leading characters are Margeurite and Armand, in Verdi’s libretto, they become Violetta and Alfredo. Furthermore, the opera is a forerunner of the verismo movement, which dealt with the human condition in modern society, as opposed to being set in castles or on battlefields. Voudouris also referred to Petropoulos’s rather cinematic approach in his stage direction. The production’s costumes were created by Fausta Mazucchelli. Pleased to be in Greece once more – this is her third collaboration with the National Opera – the costume designer explained her own method. This is a fresh approach, one which is natural and flows. There are no separate groups; whether a dancer, an actor or a singer, everyone dances on stage, she said. Maestro Constantia Gourzi will conduct the orchestra on three evenings, with the rest of the performances conducted by Voudouris, while the choirmaster is Fani Palamidi. The role of Violetta is interpreted by Martha Arapi alternating with Alexia Voulgaridou, and that of Alfredo by Emil Ivanov alternating with Yiannis Christopoulos. Also in the cast are Andreas Kouloumbis, Maria Marketou, Nikos Stefanou, Pandelis Psychas and Nikos Kapetas. The performances continue tomorrow and on November 23, 24, 25, 27 and 28, as well as on December 2, 5, 6 and 7 and are dedicated to the memory of Greek soprano Zoe Vlachopoulou. The tribute to Verdi will continue at the National Opera with a Verdi gala at the end of November and a production of Attila scheduled for the beginning of December.