Written in 1853, Verdi’s La Traviata is a staple of the opera world.
Violetta wears velvet and lace and drinks only the finest champagne from crystal glasses. Her parties are legendary, her company desired. She’s free and free-spirited, living outside society’s bounds, and for the courtesan, it seems like the party will never end. Could a little love really change everything?
La Traviata is so popular because it puts a life we can only dream of on stage, with its risqué glamour, joys and sorrows. Verdi’s music sings of freedom with flying melodies, makes merry with rousing drinking songs and leaves us with passionate duets between breaking hearts. This production, by Elijah Moshinsky, is one of Opera Australia’s most successful, featuring lush party scenes in Paris and beautiful autumn afternoons in the countryside. Starring as Flora for the July season of La Traviata is Mezzo-Soprano Agnes Sarkis.
Born in Iran to an Armenian family, Agnes has acquired her Advanced Diploma of Opera at Sydney Conservatorium in 2011 and Graduate Diploma in Music (Opera) in 2012. She was highly recommended for the Joan Carden Award in 2011, and was the winner of this Award in 2012. Some of her past operatic credits include Carmen in Carmen (Tour), Mercedes in Carmen, Olga in The Merry Widow, Modestina in Il Viaggio a Reims, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro (Tour), Third Lady in The Magic Flute (Tour), and The Great Opera Hits at the Sydney Opera House.
Can you tell me about your background in Opera?
Agnes: Music was always a part of my life since I remember, thanks to my parents. Although they aren’t musicians themselves, they made sure I started playing the piano from a young age and even my mother started playing the piano with me for some encouragement. At the same time I started having singing lessons as well and watching videos of different classical choirs really inspired me to find out more about classical techniques. Eventually I moved to Tehran to complete my engineering degree and I joined a classical choir myself, it was a gateway to the opera world and pursuing my education at the Sydney Conservatorium in 2009.
La Traviata was written almost 170 years ago – why do you think it’s still so popular?
Agnes: The genius in Verdi’s music, the beautiful details created in every phrase of La Traviata, the lovely libretto by Piave. It doesn’t matter how old this opera gets, it is always a masterpiece and one of the most popular operas in the world. Of course in Australia we get to have the most wonderful singers on stage, the most beautiful sets and costumes – our fabulous audience can’t get enough of that.
What has been the most exciting part of working on the show?
Agnes: Being a part of an opera this magnificent, singing on the main stage of the beautiful Sydney Opera House alongside my amazing fellow singers, having these amazing costumes made for me and being able to work with one of the most famous conductors in the world – it can’t get anymore exciting for me, it’s an absolute dream come true.
And the most challenging?
Agnes: The most challenging part would be singing this role after some wonderful singers have done such a great job performing it in the same production. It’s true that every singer performs the same role differently but it needs to be simply perfect, both the singing and the acting.
Do you see any of yourself in Flora?
Agnes: Absolutely, I see a lot of her in me, she’s such a happy and bubbly person and comfortable in her skin, and she doesn’t tolerate a controlling partner. At the same time she’s a very sympathetic friend to Violetta who’s always there for her.
In your own words, what is the main message of La Traviata?
Agnes: To me the main message of La Traviata is about sacrifice and true love.
For tickets and more information, visit the Sydney Opera House website.