DEATH DOWN TO FINE ART
After she dies on stage, there’s nothing Australian soprano Emma Pearson likes more than a nice cup of tea. Herbal tea, actually.
Dying goes with the territory in her latest role as the doomed Violetta in Opera Queensland’s latest co-production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata, which opens at QPAC tonight.
We don’t have to issue a spoiler alert about the ending because Violetta’s climactic death is kind of the point, tragic as it is. She may be a courtesan (a euphemism for prostitute) but she has a pure heart and is wronged by society and worst of all, by the man she loves, Alfredo (Italy-based Australian tenor Aldo Di Toro), although they reconcile at the end just before she, well, croaks. Emma Pearson dies – like Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus – exceptionally well, from all accounts.
“You do have to know how to die and in rehearsal, I have already died over and over again,” Pearson says. “I’ve had a few roles in which I die, so I am getting used to the psychology. Mind you, it was quite shocking the first time and I had to sit and have a cup of camomile tea afterwards and remind myself it wasn’t real.”
Part of the tragedy in La traviata is that as she nears death from tuberculosis, or consumption as it was commonly known, Violetta’s spirits are raised because she feels better. But as Pearson points out, that is, cruelly, just part of the disease, a last-minute reprieve from pain before death.
Even if you’re not an opera buff, you might recognise the story from Baz Luhrmann’s film Moulin Rouge, although Aldo Di Toro reckons Luhrmann blew it.
“I think Nicole Kidman was cheated in the movie because she wasn’t given the death scene on screen,” Di Toro says. “She dies but Baz focuses on something else. In La traviata, you are not spared the final death scene.”
Emma Pearson and Aldo Di Toro.