Doomed true love and sacrifice in the Sarasota Opera's La traviata.
By Kay Kipling
As a theater critic, I must admit that the world of opera has always seemed a very different one to me, more foreign (not only in the language) and harder to surrender to. But I’m learning.
In the case of the Sarasota Opera’s current production of La traviata, it’s a little easier than it might be, because the storyline is so familiar from other versions of this Woman Gone Astray archetype; and some of the music is very familiar, too (such as Act I’s famous drinking song). Certainly under Martha Collins’ stage direction and Victor DeRenzi’s conductor’s baton, it’s not at all hard to follow the simple, sad tale of Violetta Valery, a doomed courtesan (TB and all that) who falls in love with young Alfredo Germont.
That love, as is the way with operas, seems to develop in a moment, when the two meet at a party at Violetta’s home. True, Alfredo has been a faithful admirer for some time, constantly checking on her troubled health for months; but it’s only at this soiree that Violetta and he really interact and she is persuaded to give up her outwardly gay but shallow life of rich lovers and Euro trash and devote herself to one man alone.
Of course, there’s trouble in paradise; once the pair have set up housekeeping out in the country, Alfredo’s father, Giorgio, arrives to demand that Violetta leave him, so that the young man’s sister’s impending nuptials won’t be derailed by her proximity to a fallen woman. And Violetta is bound to nobly rise to the occasion, no matter the cost to herself.
I found this production of La traviata a pleasure to look at; the sets by David Gano and the costumes (coordinated by Howard Tsvi Kaplan) felt opulent and authentic. DeRenzi’s conducting was assured, and Marco Nistico’s performance as the father was strong both vocally and dramatically.
As the lovers, Lina Tetriani and Edgar Ernesto Ramirez didn’t stir me emotionally; they felt stiff together, although their singing was frequently impressive. Part of that may have been due to the way they were positioned on the stage, singing toward the audience rather than to each other; and part of it may have been (let’s face it) that Alfredo is a problematic character—a callow young man it’s hard even to imagine in the grips of a grand passion.
On the night I attended, there was an unfortunate and unexpected plumbing problem in the opera house that evidently required immediate attention during Act I, nearly ruining a crucial duet between the lovers. No such problem in the Act II pairing between Violetta and Giorgio, as he pleaded with her to do the “right” thing; the scenes between these two resonate more than the ones between her and Alfredo.
Only three more performances of La traviata are scheduled; call 366-8450 or go to sarasotaopera.org for tickets.