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Performances

Joyce El-Khoury as Violetta and Georgy Vasiliev Alfredo Germont [Photo by Palm Beach Opera]
11 Feb 2013

Palm Beach Opera Celebrates New Season

Palm Beach Opera opened its new season with the opera that began it all, La Traviata.

Palm Beach Opera Celebrates 50 Years

A review by Ariane Csonka

Above: Joyce El-Khoury as Violetta and Georgy Vasiliev Alfredo Germont

Photos by Palm Beach Opera

 

Despite the typical tribulations that have beset opera companies since the art form began, General Director Daniel Biaggi preceded the performance with his customary Swiss aplomb and elegance, thanking major sponsors and expressing both pride in the past and optimism for the future.

The premiere’s Violetta, Joyce El Khoury, faced special challenges. Not only was the stage director Renata Scotto famous for the role, but in the audience was the legendary Virginia Zeani, who sang it 600 times, plus Finnish soprano Rikka Hakala, whose resume lists a mere 200 performances. Add to that Palm Beach resident Frayda Lindemann, sponsor of the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artists program of which 27-year-old El Khoury is a graduate, and it was understandable that her first act showed signs of nerves.

PBO_Traviata_02.gifJoyce El-Khoury as Violetta and Georgy Vasiliev Alfredo Germont

However, as the evening progressed, she began to float pianissimo high notes with a precision of attack and security that was dazzling. By the time the duet with Germont Pere rolled around, the way in which she used her technique for emotional expression approached Albanese standards. The audience loved her.

Many in that audience were distressed by the departure of the charismatic PBO Music Director Bruno Aprea. The first in a series of replacement conductors was Case Scaglione, who turned in a workmanlike reading. Both the beautiful production, from Utah, and Mme. Scotto’s staging were to Palm Beach’s taste for tradition and extravagance, although one could wish she had invented some variety of movement for Georgy Vasiliev’s Alfredo, who appeared to support his stalwart, pleasing tenor by keeping his hands in his pockets.

Papa Germont is always a favorite with the public, and Michael Chioldi deserved his ovation with a warm, full baritone and sympathetic presence. The comprimarios are always good, most of them coming from the PBO Young Artists program. Shirin Eskandani was noteworthy as a flirtatious Flora, while 7-foot-plus tall Peter Tomaszewski certainly stood out as Doctor Grenvil. The chorus, directed by Greg Ritchey, provided fine back-up, and even danced well.

Ariane Csonka

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