Sunday, November 4, 2012

Opera York La Traviata

Opera York has once again deployed an artistic dream team to thrill music lovers and sate sensation seekers; their vehicle: Giuseppe Verdi’s, La Traviata. It is a noble calling to paint our world vibrant and colourful when “The skies of November turn gloomy,” and I, for one, was ecstatic to have the dismal greys banished from my soul and replaced by beauty and passion and excitement.  Such is the operatic experience I have come to expect from Opera York.

Opera companies the world over have been staging Verdi productions this past year in honour of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Il Maestro, Giuseppe Verdi. Opera of  the very finest order, La Traviata; under the direction of well-seasoned artistic director, Sabatino Vacca, brought last night’s audience at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts to their feet in a collective afterglow of extended applause.  

I had the pleasure of introducing an opera virgin to the altar of this most divine of musical entertainment experiences.  Comfortably ensconced, not too many rows behind the orchestra, we willingly suspended belief in time and space and gave ourselves up to the magic of the night and, I am happy to say, opera gained a convert!

Dramatic stage sets and a delightfully animated and beautifully costumed ensemble cast evoked French party salons, an idyllic country retreat and an intimate feminine boudoir; settings in which the tragic story of the ill-fated lovers, Alfredo and Violetta unfolded.  The chorus was particularly strong and completely engaging. Although we go to opera to thrill to the diva performances, it is always the spectacle of a rollicking, frolicking chorus of singers that builds the anticipation and appetite for our favourite opera tunes and provides musical and dramatic foreplay for the story’s climactic arias – as it were.  

The opera principals: the two lovers; Violetta, sung by Mirela Tafej and Alfredo, sung by Ricardo Iannello,  and Alfredo’s meddling father, Giorgio, sung by baritone, Jeffrey Carl, were all riveting in their roles; demanding, complex feats of vocal gymnastics that mimic the emotional highs and lows of the storyline.  The story is about a beautiful woman in love with an equally-enamoured young man, pressured to give up her love, with tragic consequences to happiness and health, after the young man’s father accuses Violetta of destroying his own daughter’s chances for love and respectable marriage.  La Traviata was highly controversial when it debuted in the mid 1850’s because it dealt with explosive moral and social issues.  Verdi, even in his own time, was a man of great stature, an innovator under considerable public censure for his own romantic liaison. By addressing sensitive contemporary social issues in La Traviata, Verdi set precedent and departed from traditional opera storylines.

As Violetta, Tafej stunned us with her strength, vocal range and stamina and together with Iannello, created ecstasy on stage but I found myself especially moved by Jeffrey Carl’s interpretation of Giorgio Germont, the zealously interfering father.  Much of the story’s plot gets moved along by Giorgio’s actions; his character goes through immense change from accusing manipulator to remorseful father and last night, in one of my most stand-out impressions of the production, Carl commanded the stage as he exquisitely emoted each nuance of a painful character development.

Wonderful things continue to emerge from the Opera York dream machine.  The spring production, Feb. 28th and March 2nd will turn to the lighter side of life with Franz Lehar’s, The Merry Widow; mark your calendar for a perfect date night!


Opera York’s next must-see production will be on the lighter side with Franz Lehar’s, The Merry Widow.














Music Season In Toronto!