Naked desire at Swedish opera house

3:11 min

A new production of Verdi's La Traviata, by the Swedish opera house, Folkoperan, featuring widespread nudity, has not had the easiest of journeys to the stage. It was cancelled last year because of flash-floods and the Stockholm public transport operator, SL, has refused its advertising posters, for being "too racy".

The chorus and the leads, in the all together. Not for the faint hearted, or the young at heart. Indeed, a 12 plus certificate rating has been put on Folkoperan's performance of La Traviata. It was due to run last summer, only for flash flooding to wipe out the interior of the opera building, forcing its closure for 6 months - the wrath of the opera gods maybe or tears from Italian traditionalists.

This modern reworking of Verdi's immensely popular opera, from the 1800s, featuring the story of the courtesan Violetta, who finds love, has Violetta as no male sex object but a strong independent woman, with power over her own sexuality.

Swedish director Mellika Melouani Melani tells SVT News that there is no reason for opera lovers to be shocked by the nudity.

"One imagines that it might be a little shocking to sit in the theatre close to the stage. Our marketing department has really been clear. The poster is also very clear with Violetta sitting naked on a horse. It is a clear signal and I think it is absolutely wonderful with this showing of female Power," she says.

The director cannot understood why Stockholm public transport operator SL, no stranger to allowing controversial advertising, will not put up posters for La Traviata on its buses and underground train stations. She tells SVT news.

"We were very surprised, it's some kind of censorship of artistic expression. It's really strange, difficult to relate to, and very difficult to understand."

The opera has had its opening night. Swedish Radio's culture correspondent, Per Feltzin, told listeners about his experience, of how nakedness was on display within two minutes of the curtain going up.

"Mostly those in the chorus, but singers too...and full frontal nudity....dangling willies, five drag queens and frentic bumping and grinding everywhere."

He says he felt "both prudish and interested..comfortable and uncomfortable..but the nudity adds very little...I see that we are created in diffferent ways but I know that anyway," he says.

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