La Traviata kicks off the Main Stage Season of Arizona Opera and boy did it start off with a bang.
We will also be seeing this production on Saturday evening with a slightly different cast.
Arizona Opera presents La Traviata
Giuseppe Verdi wrote La Traviata in 1853 after seeing the play entitled, La Dame aux Camelias (Lady of the Camelias), which was based on a novel by Alexander Dumas… let that sink in. The circuitous routes to an opera can be mind numbing on occasion.
For sake of brevity, the basic story line is boy meets girl they fall in love.
Wait, not that brief….
Violetta, a famed courtesan throws a party after being ill. Alfredo, a young man is smitten with Violetta and has visited her home every day while she was ill and shows up at said party. Alfredo falls madly in love after briefly speaking with her.
Act II opens with Violetta and Alfredo cohabitating (of course) in a country house outside of Paris living the peaceful life but they are broke. Alfredo leaves for Paris and his father, Giorgio Germont, shows up and demands that Violetta abandon Alfredo because his daughter is to be married and, oh my gosh, what would the neighbors think of his family if they knew about Violetta. She agrees and writes Alfredo a note and promptly leaves. Alfredo returns to find his father there and Violetta gone. Alfredo rushes out to find Violetta.
Flora, a friend of Violetta’s is having a lavish party with gypsy’s and matadors in attendance when Violetta and her previous benefactor, Baron Duophol, arrive. Alfredo arrives shortly after and he tries to convince Violetta to come back to the country with him. Dinner and gambling interrupt and Alfredo wins a large sum of money. Violetta senses that things may get out of hand and asks Alfredo to leave, of course, he misinterprets this and throws his winnings at her feet to dishonor her. The elder Germont arrives and denounces Alfredo’s behavior. The Baron is the Baron and challenges Alfredo to a duel.
Act III is at Violetta’s home where she is gravely ill. Germont has written to Violetta saying that the Baron was only wounded and is sending Alfredo to ask forgiveness. Alfredo arrives in time to see Violetta and sing for a bit as she breathes her last breath. If you have ever heard the phrase, “dying of TB at the top of her lungs.” This is one of those times. Another is in next Season’s La Boheme but that is a story for another time.
Now, how was the production we saw? Well, all I can say is it was a feast for the eyes and ears. This production was staged with sets from Utah Opera that were what you would expect for this piece; lavish and yet functional. I was especially fascinated with the upper part of the sets where they resembled a very large crown molding or cornice literally disintegrating into the ceiling. The set went from lavish on stage to minimalist at the ceiling. These sets were also designed for fairly quick scene changes, where we only waited about 8 minutes to go from the country house to Flora’s party scene. It was rather impressive so kudos to the stage managers and their team.
Maestro Joseph Rescigno was able to coax a lush sound out of the orchestra, who sounded as wonderful as always. I can’t tell you what a delight it is to hear the musicians in the pit of Arizona Opera and they only get better every time I hear them. Maestro Rescigno was also attentive to the singers on stage during those moments that need a bit of a tempo adjustment to let them to interpret the music in their own way. The synchrony between the musicians, conductor, singers, and dancers was spot on. Did I say dancers? Yes, I did. During the overture the curtain opens on Violetta’s sitting room and a pair of dancers grace the stage with choreography that seemed to be a depiction of the disease that is consuming Violetta. They make another appearance in the last act to serve as a premonition of what is to come. The choreography and the dancers were an added flourish to this already stunning piece.
Here we go… Vanessa Vasquez, who is a Scottsdale native, performed the role of Violetta. Do the letters O. M. G. mean anything to you? Vanessa’s voice was perfect for this particular role. Her agility and pitch perfect control in her high range was such a pleasure to hear. No wonder she won the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions in 2017. And her acting was so over the top in a very good way, because this is Violetta we are talking about, who is a larger than life character. Vanessa channeled the spirit of Violetta with her dramatic touches and yet you could see the angst just under the surface. There is a moment towards the end of act one that she is lying on some steps on stage singing of her love for Alfredo. I was in awe. In the second part of Act II at Flora’s where she is not singing, in fact, she is off to the side of the stage pouting. At intermission I mentioned to Joe Specter that I didn’t know someone could pout so loud. In Act III Vanessa did not disappoint, she gave us everything from sadness to ecstasy as Violetta realizes she is dying and then as Alfredo shows up and she literally falls dead in Alfredo’s arms singing at the top of her lungs. What an ending.
Daniel Montenegro, who sings Alfredo was well paired with Vanessa. They complimented each other vocally and in Act III during the final scene all of the emotion and love Alfredo has for Violetta is present in his singing. In Act II his anger was very real and you could hear the bitterness of a jilted lover pouring out onto the stage.
Daniel Sutin as Giorgio Germont was a marvel to hear. His voice filled Symphony Hall and surroundings with its power and sonorous quality. His performance of Di Provenza was one of those moments where you have to remind yourself to breathe.
Bille Bruley, as Gastone, Jarrett Porter as Baron Duophol, Brandon Morales as Dr. Grenvil, and Cadie Jordan as Annina are all part of the Marion Roose Pullin Studio Artists at Ariaona Opera. They were each one of them a credit to the program and all have promising careers ahead of them. Daniel Prunaru as Marchesse D’Obigny and Katherine Beck as Flora are both very good musicians and added that extra touch to round out this exquisite production of La Traviata.
To say that I enjoyed this performance is an understatement. I am glad that Christopher Cano convinced me (in the middle of Safeway) that we should attend Friday night as well as our regular Saturday night performance. I can’t wait to see what is in store for Saturday night.
Tickets are still available for the 7:30 PM Saturday performance and the 2:00 PM Sunday performances. Go to AZOpera.org to buy tickets online. You may even be able to walk up to the box office for either performance at Symphony Hall but it is a better bet to order ahead of time.
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