BWW Review: A Marvelous Oropesa is Definitely Not 'Lost' in Met's TRAVIATA
When I recently interviewed Lisette Oropesa, just before her first Violetta at the Met, she told me that people are always asking her "Isn't TRAVIATA an opera for three different sopranos? One soprano per act?" and her answer is: "Yeah, if you want to look at it that way. But ideally, any singer should be able to sing coloratura within reason, with dynamics within reason, with the ability to use her physiology. And every singer should be able to act. And it's a masterpiece. A great story."
She proved her point when I heard her perform it on stage Saturday night, in Michael Mayer's production, showing that she didn't need any help from a doppelganger in pulling off all the varied aspects of Verdi's courtesan. She gave a stellar performance that showed a firm grip on all the facets of the role--the coloratura, the drama, the pathos, the glamour.
She was the party girl of Act I, the delirious lover and compassionate figure of Act II, and the dying woman of Act III, each perfectly placed, each cannily acted. Whether she was singing the joyous "Sempre libera" at the opera's start or the woeful "Addio del passato" at the end of Act III, she was in full command of all that was demanded of her. She had good backup from the Met Orchestra, under Bertrand de Billy, with the usual stellar work of the Met Chorus, under Donald Palumbo.
(And she didn't laugh at the appearance of Alfredo's sister, the mute figure that Verdi and his librettist, Francesco Maria Piave, never wrote but whom director Mayer decided was needed. She wasn't.)
Of course, Oropesa wasn't on stage alone. Tenor Piero Pretti started as an eager puppy of an Alfredo, her lover, turning into a jealous fool and then trying to mend his ways. He has an attractive voice that fit all the demands of the role, whether in the charm of the "Libiamo" at the start of Act I, the delirium of "De miei bollenti spiriti" in Act II or the sad Act III duet with Violetta, "Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo."
As Alfredo's father, I liked baritone Luca Salsi's "Di Provenza..." best, but found he couldn't quite overcome the characterization of pere Germont as a bit country bumpkin-ish until late in the opera.
Of the supporting players, mezzo Maria Zifchak was fine as Violetta's maid, Annina, as was mezzo Sarah Larsen as her friend, Flora. But three cheers for veteran baritone Dwayne Croft as Baron Duphol, who maneuvered his way around a usually ungrateful role and made it stand out.
Christine Jones's pretty set design has grown on me since the production's premiere (though I wish Violetta's bed, which remains on stage throughout the opera, were better integrated into the action and didn't always look like she lived in a huge studio apartment). But Susan Hilferty's garish costumes--except for Violetta's gorgeous gowns--were a distraction that seemed all wrong.
The revival's director was Sarah Ina Meyers, who kept things moving but couldn't really do much to improve Mayer's concept. Lorin Latarro's choreography was lively enough in the second party at Flora's, but it's an unnecessary convention from French grand opera and another time, though Barton Cowperthwaite and Cara Seymour did their best leading the troop of dancers in the lusty shenanigans.
In the end, however, we go to TRAVIATA for the Violetta and Alfredo and the performance delivered on that--particularly with Oropesa's courtesan--and then some.
Further performances of LA TRAVIATA will take place on March 5, 9, 13 and 19. A complete schedule with casting by date and performance times is available here.