HARD as it is to believe, York Opera has never performed Verdi's La Traviata.

"It speaks volumes for the breadth and variety of opera that a group such as York Opera can exist for over 50 years, performing works from some of opera’s biggest names to works rarely put on, and yet never touch one of the most famous stories in the genre’s history," says publicist Michael Foster.

"However, a year after the group’s golden anniversary, our members have felt the time was right to perform La Traviata for the first time.

"We've considered undertaking Verdi’s classic opera in the past, but have decided that now is the perfect opportunity to bring the opera to York audiences. The reason for this timing was that after undertaking Turandot at York Theatre Royal in 2016, our members were keen to participate in another challenging yet well-known opera."

Take into account the present talented pool of singers and performers, and York Opera reckons it can produce a show of the highest quality, and you can witness the results at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, on June 13, 14, 16 and 17 at 7.30pm.

"La Traviata tells the tale Violetta, a famous courtesan who falls for Alfredo and tries to move away from her extravagant lifestyle, but family feuds, rival lovers and her ailing health conspire to put her new life at risk," says Michael. "It is perhaps one of opera’s most well-known and popular tragic love stories, and one which has had a huge influence on popular culture: among the films it's inspired is the 2001 Baz Luhrmann movie Moulin Rouge.

York Press:

A collage of Ione Cummings in rehearsals for York Opera's La Traviata

"It's a challenging and intense opera, though it's a challenge that the cast, led by Ione Cummings as Violetta and Karl Reiff as Alfredo, is relishing. They're particularly eager to get the chance to perform the famous Brindisi drinking song, which remains one of opera’s most endearing choruses."

York Opera's production has provided opportunities for veterans and newcomers alike. John Atkin, for example, has previously directed a concert version of Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro and was an off stage trombonist for Turandot in 1986 and now takes on the post of musical director for the first time.

"With a large chorus of talented and very experienced singers the vocal sound is excellent,” says John. “The dynamic range and expression we're producing in rehearsals promises a very high standard of performance in June.”

By performing in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre and singing in English, York Opera wishes to provide an accessible and intimate version of Verdi's opera, sticking to the group’s commitment to bringing opera to audiences both old and new while providing performers with opportunities they would not find elsewhere.

Chairman Hilary Dyson believes La Traviata is "the perfect opera for audiences new to the genre to see what the fuss is all about". "It’s a timeless yet tragic love story, which has reverberated throughout the ages, as indeed has Verdi’s wonderful score,” she says. “Not only is it one of opera’s finest tales but one of its most accessible too. It’s also an exciting thought that even as York Opera passes its golden anniversary year, there remain operas for the company to perform for the first time.”

Tickets are available at £9 to £15 at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk or on 01904 501935.