FGO’s La Traviata Draws Standing Ovation for a Fallen Woman
At its 1853 premiere in Venice, Giuseppe Verdi’s beloved opera La Traviata was jeered. That may have been the fault of the singers, as the composer hinted in a letter to a friend. Since Verdi’s time, lush orchestrations, a string of aria hits, and a libretto about a libertine courtesan who finds love and dies have made La Traviata the most performed opera in the world. Indeed, the need to make such a familiar production fresh has lead to many outlandish and sometimes even absurd productions. Not so with Florida Grand Opera’s 2013 season closer. FGO plays La Traviata straight – and the singers would have made Verdi proud. On April 20, María Alejandres was indisputably the best leading lady of the season, and one the best Violettas I’ve ever heard. Her voice projected powerfully, with a flawless technique and colorful musicality. It was deliciously decadent to hear Sempre libera, Violetta’s first act tour de force sung, not shrieked. Ivan Magrì held his own as Alfredo, with a youthful lyric tenor in complete control and balancing neatly with Alejandres throughout. However, it took a couple of acts for dramatic chemistry to flare between the two, in the duet Parigi, o cara. It was worth the wait. Giorgio Coaduro made a fine Germont, with a convincing paternal presence and vocal command. Although it took him a little while to warm up, he did so in time for a heartfelt Di Provenza il Mar, il Suol. The cast as a whole seemed disconnected from each other in the first acts, finally coming together as an ensemble in Act III. Bliss Heberts’ staging did not help. It seemed static, perhaps because Allen Charles Klein’s majestic sets did not leave much room for anything or anybody else. This posed a particular challenge for the dancers in the Gypsy and Picador chorus. Fortunately, choreographer Rosa Mercedes made the most of the limited space. Maestro Ramon Tebar brought out the best in the orchestra, taking a Bel Canto approach that highlighted the influence that style had on Verdi’s work. The contrast in tempi between the pathetic opening prelude and the adjacent party scene, and the unusually fast Brindisi were refreshing jolts. Energized, the audience responded to FGO’s production of La Traviata with a standing ovation that lasted almost as long as the courtesan’s drawn-out death.