Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Marina Rebeka as Violetta, Act 1. [Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography]
22 Jan 2014

La traviata, Chicago

In a staging shared with Houston Grand Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, Lyric Opera of Chicago presented recently a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata.

La traviata, Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Marina Rebeka as Violetta, Act 1. [Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography]

 

The title role was sung by Marina Rebeka in her company debut; Joseph Calleja repeated his success as Alfredo Germont; the father of Alfredo, Giorgio Germont, was performed by baritone Quinn Kelsey. The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus were conducted by Massimo Zanetti.

The first and final acts of Verdi’s opera were united in the visual depiction of Violetta Valery’s domain, while the atmosphere attendant on both depictions showed a considerable difference. During the overture to the opera the audience was able to witness, through a film-like curtain suspended before the stage, the protagonist Violetta helped by her maid as she stepped into a ball-gown and train. As the strings played their achingly wistful melody during the overture Violetta donned both feathers and wings to prepare herself further for the festive party in her home. This element of belle époque artifice continued throughout the production lending a credible tone to the celebratory scenes in the later acts.

From her first lines of invitation, “Flora, amici …” and “Miei cari, sedete …” [“Flora, my friends …” and “My dear friends, please be seated”], Ms. Rebeka had full command of Violetta’s role. She sings with a comfortable approach to the character’s shifting vocal lines, uses decoration judiciously, and remains involved in the stage action as hostess at her salon. At Alfredo Germont’s introduction Mr. Calleja assumes a tentative yet searching approach, so that the audience is able to sense his vivid interest not only in the setting but also in its hostess. Calleja’s admirable line and embellishments in the “Brindisi” [“Libiamo” (“Drink”)] are models of bel canto Verdian singing. Individual notes are projected clearly, just as the intensity and color of Calleja’s decorations emphasize an involvement progressing beyond infatuation. When he responds to Violetta’s questions concerning this passionate interest, Calleja introduces his self-defense with a suspenseful diminuendo before describing his unexpected love already for the duration of a year. With a seamless flow of legato expression Calleja outlines his character’s emotional struggle as summarized finally with a tear-laden effect on “Croce e delizia” [“Cross and ecstasy”]. Rebeka’s response is equally moving while she pronounces “un cosi eroico amore” [“such an heroic love”] with a rising line of decoration. During their rapid exchange of plans to meet again when the flower has withered, both principals sang “domani” [“tomorrow”] in piano intimacy. As a means to depicting their growing, shared love, this hushed glance into the characters’ feeling enhanced for the audience the resolve expressed in the duet as concluded.

During an introspective solo, when left alone to ponder the changes affecting her current state, Violetta doubts at first the possibility of authentic love. In the first part of her aria, “Ah, fors’è lui” [“Ah, perhaps he is the one”], Rebeka uses her skills to sing and modulate from soft to loud as though involved in an emphatic conversation with her heart. The incomprehensible, or “misterioso,” is sung by Rebeka softly and in awe, whereas her voice blooms in volume under the weight of the “croce.” During the ensuing “Sempre libera” [“Forever free”] the rapid runs were executed cleanly and forte notes were taken as pure, lyrical cries of emotion. Rebeka succeeds at integrating this showpiece aria smoothly into the drama while at the same time leaving a strong impression of her bel canto approach. Toward the close of the act Calleja’s repeated offstage appeals of “Croce” extended the emotional web for both protagonists even further.

At the start of Act Two Alfredo, while alone, muses on his happiness in the soliloquy “Lunge da lei per me” [“When she is far away”]. Calleja’s breath control and embellishments on “il passato” and “Io vivo quasi in ciel” [“the past” and “I seem to live in heaven”] underline his dream-like state before the rude awakening of Violetta’s financial sacrifice, about which he learns unexpectedly from Annina. In his aria of response, “Oh mio rimorso! Oh, infamia!” [“Oh remorse! Oh infamy!”], Alfredo is indeed jolted into recognizing his position. Calleja performs this aria with true emotional vigor and takes the repeat with the effect of emphasizing his resolve. Act Two of La traviata belongs, of course, just as much to Giorgio Germont, the father of Alfredo. Mr. Kelsey demonstrates a solid command of this role, his exciting baritone drawing on resonant shades of nuance especially during his introductory scene with Violetta. When making an appeal to his son’s lover Kelsey includes individual decoration to enhance the spirit of his request. His sense of rubato was effective in “genitor” [“father”] just as was the embellishment with which he sang “L’angiol consolatore” [“Consoling angel”]. As if in response to this moving portrayal of paternal need, Rebeka’s Violetta sang “Dite alla giovane” [“Tell your daughter”] with a decidedly slow tempo, so that each word was pronounced in fulfillment of her proposed actions. Both singers were then united in a rising line on “sacrifizio” as Violetta subsequently promised to leave Alfredo.

The following scene of Act Two showed Kelsey just as much to advantage. His performance of “Di Provenza il mar” [“From Provence … the sea”], addressed to a disconsolate Alfredo, was noteworthy for its disciplined approach to phrasing. The aria was performed in its uncut form, so that the audience was privileged to hear a polished performance of a baritone staple which is so often trimmed in other productions. Toward the close of this scene the orchestra, perhaps out of sympathy with the anguish expressed between father and son, played its accompaniment too loudly. In the final part of Act Two, at the salon of Flora, the costumed dancers and additional performers fit well into the overall setting of the party. After the intimate duet between Alfredo and Violetta - leading to anger, misunderstanding, and his public denunciation - Germont père returns and participates in a final ensemble. Here Kelsey’s superb legato could be traced throughout the group, while Rebeka performed her part with searing top notes as she lay on her side. Calleja’s lines “rimorso io n’ho” [“I am sick with remorse”], with equally notable projection, remained the dominant impression at the close of the ensemble.

Act Three is staged at first through the same curtain as at the start of Act One, yet now Violetta lies ill and weak as attended by Annina. After Dr. Grenvil hints discretely that Violetta has only several hours to live, the maidservant is sent off to perform errands. When left alone Violetta sings “Addio, del passato” [“Farewell … of the past”], which Rebeka performed with multiple high notes shading to diminuendo. Her vision of “La tomba ai mortali” [“The tomb for us mortals”], as expressed in this performance, was clearly visible to the protagonist despite a letter announcing the imminent arrival of Alfredo. Although he arrives shortly before Violetta succumbs, their final duet, “Parigi, o cara” [“From Paris, dear”] remains ironically also a vision. The tragedy of her death renders this final lyrical happiness, with Calleja’s leading lines answered touchingly by Rebeka’s sustained responses, a poignant conclusion to this excellent new production of Verdi’s masterpiece.

Salvatore Calomino

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):