BWW Reviews: The Union Avenue Opera's Exquisite Production of LA TRAVIATA
When you think of classic operas La Traviata is certainly one that immediately comes to mind. Composer Giuseppe Verdi (with a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave) created a wonderful piece that has stood the test of time, and when hearing it, you'll often find a number of familiar themes, some of which have appeared as background underscoring for cartoons, films, and commercials. It has all the elements that define our conceptions of what opera is: a superb score, the demand for inspired performances, and a tragic love story. The Union Avenue Opera has put together a memorable and moving production of this timeless work that demands your time and attention.
The story follows a courtesan named Violetta who doesn't want to give up her lifestyle, despite the fact that the demands it places upon her are causing great detriment to her health. Enter Alfredo Germont, a man with deep feelings for her, who wants her to give up her life as a courtesan and choose a life with him instead. But, their idyllic life in the country is compromised when Giorgio Germont, Alfredo's father, misinterprets Violetta's intentions and tells her that their love has no future. In the end, Alfredo is able to reconnect with his lost love, but Violetta's euphoria over their rekindling is tempered by the fact that she is dying.
Zulimar Lopez-Hernandez does outstanding work as Violetta, and her soprano voice is more than up to the demands of the score, which is challenging, particularly since the character is ill. She's paired with Riccardo Iannello as Alfredo and the blending of her voice with his tenor is simply marvelous. Both are able to convey their emotions and desires vocally as well as through their acting performances. Robert Garner makes an impression as well as Giorgio, and even though the character's motivations seem at odds with his son's, he doesn't come across as a villain, but more as a concerned father who may be more misguided in his actions than anything else. Mark Freiman is also quite good as Baron Douphol, a rival for Violetta's affections. In fact, the entire cast does remarkable work and includes: Debra Hillebrand (Flora Bervoix), Debby Lennon (Annina), Anthony Heinemann (Gastone), Phillip Bullock (Marquis d'Obigny), Robert Reed (Doctor Grenvil), Jon Garret (Giuseppe), and Philip Touchette (Messenger).
Conductor Scott Schoonover brings forth a beautiful sound from the orchestra and performers, who are never overpowered, but instead, perfectly matched so that each shine. Tim Ocel's stage direction is also top notch, and you may even find yourself ignoring the projected translations (Union Avenue Opera prides itself on presenting these operas in their original language), because the action is so clear and focused. Patrick Huber's scenic design is very well done, and Maureen Berry's lighting captures the mood of this piece. Teresa Doggett's costumes are also eye-catching, and really suit the period and the characters.
Union Avenue Opera's production of La Traviata should not be missed. If you're an opera novice it's a chance to catch a classic that's exquisitely performed, and if you're already an opera fan then you know that this is one of the shows that is always worth seeing. Regardless, of where your interests fall, you should make every effort to catch this moving and very compelling presentation which continues through July 19, 2014.
Photo Credit: Ron Lindsey