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Thread: La Traviata at the Washington National Opera, Washington, DC

          
   
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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    La Traviata at the Washington National Opera, Washington, DC

    La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi, at the Washington National Opera, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC

    This review is for the performance of 17 October, 2019

    This is a co-production of Washington National Opera, The Atlanta Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Seattle Opera and Indiana University

    Conductor: Renato Palumbo
    Director: Francesca Zambello

    Cast [Note that some performances are staged with an alternate cast]

    Violetta Valery: Venera Gimadieva
    Alfredo Germont: Joshua Guerrero
    Giorgio Germont: Lucas Meachem
    Flora Bervoix: Deborah Nansteel
    Annina: Alexandria Shiner
    Gastone: Arnold Livingston Geis
    Baron Douphol: Michael Hewitt
    Marquis d'Obigny: Samuel Weiser
    Doctor Grenvil: Timothy J. Bruno
    Giuseppe: Aurelio Dominguez

    To start, I have to admit up front that La Traviata is not one of my favorite operas. I find the plot to be way too loaded with one-after-another pathetic circumstances in Verdi's attempt to wring every last tear out of his audience. Despite my complaint, Verdi clearly succeeded in his goal as this is about the most beloved opera of them all. I have noted in my reviews of WNO productions over the last few years that, the Ring excepted, the Kennedy Center Opera House has had a steady erosion of audience, as seen in numerous empty seats. Except last night. Although there were a number of empty seats remaining at the edges, the center seating in my area of the 1st Tier was mostly full. It also took much longer than usual to exit the parking garage than has been the case for quite some time. So, maybe Francesca Zambello's strategy of becoming the Casey Kasem of opera and staging Opera's Top 20 is starting to pay off.

    This is a new and decidedly traditional production that includes a very handsome set and extravagant costumes. The opera opens behind a scrim, looking into a hospital ward with three old-fashioned steel frame beds (reminded me of the infirmary when I was in summer camp in the 1960s). The ward stretched the length of the stage and presented a long gallery behind a long series of early modern type windows. Violetta is in bed, and the opera is staged as a flashback on her life story - we know this because the hospital set returns following the evening at Flora's after she meets Alfredo and again at the end of the opera.

    The windows remain throughout and are then used to frame the other scenes and acts as they consist of revolving backgrounds - glass, baroque-style wainscotting and a forest background for when she and Alfredo are residing in the country. All very tasteful. This staging concept of a length of wall of some kind that is used throughout an opera, utilizing different effects is one that Zambello has used in several of her WNO productions: Dead Man Walking, Appomattox and there is another that escapes me at the moment. Handsome and cost effective.

    The casting throughout WNO's 2018-19 season, if you recall, was enough of a concern in the absence of well known singers that I nearly did not renew my subscription. The singers last night were fine - not very exciting (which is part of the opera experience, after all) - but reasonably capable. Lucas Meachem's Papa Germont was the most impressive in the cast, with a solid baritone and who moved and held himself very stiff and formal throughout his time on stage, which seemed totally in keeping with his character.

    Venera Gimadieva's Violetta looked the role - slim and beautiful - and acted convincingly. I found her high notes and coloratura in the first act, especially in her "Sempre Libera" to be thin and unpleasant (interestingly, the program notes indicate she has a lot of coloratura roles scheduled: Elvira (I Puritani), Lucia, Amina and another Violetta, which I find a bit alarming). As Traviata moves into its later scenes, and the memory of her coloratura faded, she was far more comfortable and successful - even touching. Similarly, I wasn't much impressed with Joshua Guerrero's Alfredo, as he was adequate and really not very interesting.

    It was another typical evening at the WNO - competent singing, not very exciting - but generally beautiful to the eye. I was stunned when the performance rated a standing ovation by last night's audience. I guess La Traviata does that to a person.
    Last edited by Hoffmann; October 19th, 2018 at 03:23 AM.

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I saw a Trav with Gimadieva 4 years ago, and liked a lot her agile coloratura. Maybe her agility wasn't working very well this time, which could be due to fatigue, respiratory ailments, etc. And yes, she is pretty, with beautiful blue eyes. Interestingly enough, what I didn't like as much at the time was her acting, which I found to be a bit in need of more training, for this particular skill. So, she sang well, looked good, but acted poorly in the performance I saw; seems to sing less well, still looks pretty, but is a better actress, now. Again, maybe she wasn't at her vocal peak, but did learn more about acting (she was 30 years old then, is therefore 34 now, with four more years of practice).

    As for the opera itself, I never tire of it. I love it. I think the score is very well crafted, and sure, it's a tearjerker, but it is actually quite realistic, since I believe that the demi-mondaine women in Paris at the time most likely were treated exactly like that; and remember, it's based on a true story.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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