Monday, October 17, 2011

Review La Triviata, An Opera Even Amateur Opera Fans Can Enjoy

La Traviata
Presented by the Pittsburgh Opera
October 15, 18, 21, 23, 2011                                          
JoAnn R. Forrester, Positively Pittsburgh Live, reviewer

First I have to confess that I am not an experienced opera “goer”.  In my lifetime I have seen about 5 operas and have gone because friends “encouraged” me.   So I write from the view of someone who is just learning and does not know all the technical details….but I can tell you how I responded and felt.

Violetta toasts: Among a group of admirers, Violetta (Anna Samuil) toasts
her guests in the Act I party scene of Pittsburgh Opera’s La traviata
First of all, just from the point of getting dressed up and going to the opera it is delicious fun.  So many places we go today people are casually dressed and have forgotten the niceties of “Dress Up” and how it makes you feel.  The majority of the audience was elegant and men and women, young and old were dressed up and it was fun to be part of “the scene”.  Just for that I want to go again.

Second, Opera lovers are friendly and love to share with you their opinion and want to hear yours.  I confessed I did not know the “technical stuff” and more than one person was thrilled to share with me.  
Third, I read the reviews from both major papers in town and it was fascinating to see what I the pros had to say…some of it I agreed and some I definitely did not.  

La Traviata was written by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Based on La dame aux Camellias in 1852, a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils.  This opera was based on the life of a famous courtesan in France who found love and then died tragically at a young age. Verdi was one of her admirers.  

The role of the beautiful courtesan Violetta Valery, played by Anna Samuil captured me with her voice and style.   The casting in this case was perfect.  The opening scene is in her Paris apartment where she is hosting a grand party with her admirers is proclaiming all the joys of what today we would call the “Jet Set” Lifestyle.  An admirer Alfredo Germont is introduced and he has loved her from afar for a year.   Amidst the merry making Violetta shows sign of an illness which she quickly dismisses. But Alfredo watches and hovers and instinctively wants to take care and protect her.  Anna impressed me with her range and passion and Alfredo seemed like an unlikely match.  But love often makes strange matches.  Fire and passion often is attracted to quiet and nice….for a while and then??  First Act ends with Violetta agreeing to meet Alfredo the next day after the Camellia withers. 

In Pittsburgh Opera’s La traviata, Violetta and Alfredo break up,
 but then meet at this party, where partygoers are dressed as gypsies
(Attack Theatre dancer Liz Chang at left, in orange dress)
and matadors. Photo by David Bachman.
Now, the second act, First Scene, Violetta and Aflredo are blissfully living in her country house near Paris.  Life is good…but expensive.  I must mention for a minute that the scenery in the second act is breathtakingly beautiful and transports you to a country home in Paris true to the era.   Alfredo finds out that Violetta is selling her possessions to support their luxurious lifestyle.  He vows to rectify that and off to Paris he goes.  As soon as he leaves Alfredo father, Giorgio Germont, played excellently by Stephen Powell arrives and confronts Violetta.  He implores her to leave his son; their relationship is ruining the family’s good name and will destroy his daughter opportunity to marry well.

These two, Violetta and Giorgi, are powerful together.  The father wanting to protect his family and the woman to protect herself from losing the love of her life!  They soar in their songs and are mesmerizing to watch.  Violetta finally agrees to sacrifice herself and let Alfredo go.  She does this fully knowing that she will shortly succumb to tuberculosis.  The father leaves and Alfredo comes back and is sent away.grieving, jealous and angry.

Second Act, second scene, Violetta has returned to her former lifestyle and is at a party with Baron Douphol, a former lover, when Alfredo shows up.   The emotions run wild with accusations, histrionics and bad treatment of Violetta by Alfredo.  He is acting like he is a member of the today’s reality soap opera Jersey Shore and there you finally see the passion of Alfredo.  He also challenges the Baron to a duel and his behavior is condemned by all including his father, Giorgio.  The stage has been set for Violetta tragic death.
Although they have been apart for months, Violetta (Anna Samuil)
and Alfredo (Giuseppe Varano) are reunited briefly
before Violetta dies of consumption. Pittsburgh Opera’s La traviata
runs October 15, 18, 21, and 23 at The Benedum Center. Photo by David Bachman
Third Act, Violetta is dying only her loyal maid and Dr. Grenvil are with her.  Ah...the loneliness and despair because she does not have Alfredo with her.  But wait good news!  Alfredo has been told by his father of Violetta sacrifice and he and father are rushing to her side to revive her, bring her back to life. 

Powerful emotion comes from all and hope against hope she will live.but no the lovers are separated by her passing.  A stark ending and no dry eyes in the audience.

I liked La Traviata.  I was absorbed by the tragedy unfolding with the emotions being so strongly expressed in song.   If you can go…is it an absorbing power drama that takes you back in time and yet can be related to today…but in a much classier more elegant manner than much of our entertainment today.
Go, dress up, learn and enjoy.  I think I have found a new love...the opera.

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