BWW Review: MN Opera Portrays Sacrifices for Love in Magnificent LA TRAVIATA
Opening on the past Saturday night at the Ordway Center, MN Opera staged a magnificent production of Giuseppe Verdi's 1853 Opera La Traviata. Verdi's breathtaking love and death opera accompanied by Francesco Maria Piave's libretto was adapted after Alexander Dumas' "Lady of the Camellias" or "La Dame aux Camélias. In Verdi's reimagining of the Dumas novel, his music showcases the prodigious talents and voice of the protagonist, Violetta. For the company's opening night, Nicole Cabel masterfully sang the challenging operatic role.
Throughout the two plus hour performance, Violetta remains on stage for almost the entire opera, often singing compelling arias. In every one of these moments, Cabell beguiled, charmed and invited the audience to share Violetta's transformation from Parisian courtesan to a woman defying her upbringing. This strong young woman, realizing she's ill, pledges her life to pleasure until a lover challenges her perspective while Violetta realizes her death could be imminent without further reprieve.
Only when Violetta's equally talented and debonair lover, Alfredo Germant enters her hopelessness by declaring his undying devotion for the beautiful courtesan, does Violetta believe her life might know the joy of true love. Jesús Leon showcased his perfection to the opera, while the chemistry between the two performers magically transforms Cabell's Violetta. In several scenes, the duets between Cabell and Leon send chills through the audience, now mesmerized without a sound to be heard in the performance hall. On an equally extraordinary note, Alfredo's father Giorgio ,played by Joo Won Kang, tests his son's love and plays on Violetta's new found compassion after vowing her love to Alfredo.
Added to the glorious score and singing, the stage designed by Isabella Bywater created a visual delight for the audience that stripped the period setting to an elegant minimum. Costumes also designed by Bywater create a sophisticated simplicity to center the audience on the characters and themes from the era's societal mores to the sacrifices person makes for love. Equally artful, striking and strategic, lighting designs by Marcus Doshi featured shadows of Violetta's silhouettes on the marbled stage back drops allowing her persona and transformation to become larger than life itself. The scenes where the entire ensemble appears create a glorious, festive atmosphere. With all the technical support under the stage direction of Louisa Muller, and accompanied by the orchestra conducted by Christopher Franklin, the entire production creates an almost perfect tribute to Verdi's masterpiece
When the last act arrives on stage in Violetta's bedroom, her servant Annina opens a window to let the morning sun shine through, which dramatically focuses an ethereal light on Violetta near death and resting in her bed. Dressed in an angelic white nightgown, Cabell's Violetta offers her character a glorious redemption from the past pleasure seeking courtesan who vowed there was no love to be found. Transformed by Alfredo's love, the two eventually reunite, and a few tears were shed in the audience. After the performance, the audience will be transformed, too.
Verdi's La Traviata reigns as one of the most frequently produced operas worldwide. In a age filled with mistrust and often hate, one woman's journey on how love could heal her soul resonates with contemporary cultures. When Violetta makes a supreme sacrifice for love, the opera perhaps offers a timely message. One, society still places expectations on women that men may rarely understand or experience, with regard to their past or present social behaviors. Two, love, at all costs, still holds the power over the human heart and soul when given with a pure motives, in sacrifice for another's well being, whether given for an individual person or for collective humanity.
Perhaps the Verdi Opera, and the spellbinding La Traviata production offered by MN Opera, asks the audience to ponder the love and death choices society might be faced with in the future. What would the audience be willing to sacrifice for love, as a society towards another class, gender, or culture, or an individual in their own small world?
MN Opera presents Guiseppe Verdi's La Traviata at the Ordway Center in St. Paul through May 19. For information on the upcoming 2019-2020 season or the current performance schedule and tickets, please visit www.mnopera.org.