Review: LA TRAVIATA at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

By: Jun. 02, 2019

Review: LA TRAVIATA at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

On June 1, 2019, Los Angeles Opera revived Marta Domingo's production of Giuseppe Verdi's beloved La Traviata (The Lost One). The story concerns Marie Duplessis, an enormously famous courtesan whose life has fascinated the public for well over a century. She is the subject of La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camelias) by Alexandre Dumas the younger, who claimed to be one of Marie's lovers and she is the heroine of Verdi's opera. Los Angeles Opera reprised its 2006 production of La Traviata for the third time on June 1, 2019, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Marie was born in 1824 in the French town of Nonnant-le-Pin. As a young adult, she learned to read and worked at understanding art, literature, and politics so as to be interesting companionship for wealthy men. Ill with tuberculosis, she lived only a few years and in 1847 she was buried in a Paris cemetery where her grave is still venerated.

Verdi's Opera premiered in 1853 and traditionally the opera is set around that time. Director Marta Domingo moved the time up to the "Roaring Twenties," however, for her Los Angeles production. After an opening where young streetwalkers strolled away with older men, Violetta arrived in a vintage car for a richly endowed black and white "Demi-Monde" party. Sparkling decorations adorned the soft fabrics of Mrs. Domingo's gowns while the men's clothing was appropriate for the evening.

Tall trees with autumn leaves adorned the second act garden scene and I wish their branches had looked fresher and more life-like. Mrs. Domingo's rustic costumes did enliven the scene, however. Flora's Party in the third act was notable for allowing the audience to watch jazz dancing while listening to Verdi's 19th century music. The choreography by Kitty McNamee was totally "Twenties" but it fit Verdi's rhythms perfectly as her dancers gave the LAO audience visual "flappers" and aural Verdi.

As with Act One, the gowns at Flora's third act party were adorned with spectacular drapes and jewels. Only in the final scene, did Violetta, the fabled courtesan, lose her spectacular setting. She died on a huge soft bed that seemed to be out under the stars. For each of these settings, Alan Burrett's lighting added colorful ambience or subtracted visual intensity as needed.

Romanian soprano Adela Zaharia, the Operalia winner from 2017 who made her LAO debut last year as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto, was a well schooled Violetta who was able to encompass various aspects of this complex role. She sang the difficult coloratura of "Sempre Libera" (Always Free") to perfection and retained jewel-like color in her voice for the emotionally rich later scenes. Her death scene was particularly powerful as she collapsed in Alfredo's arms.

As Alfredo, 2016 Operalia winner Rame Lahaj sang every note of his role with conviction. His Act Two aria, "De miei bollenti spiriti" ("From my effervescent spirits"), was beautifully put together and its cabaletta, "O mio rimorso," (" O my remorse"), overwhelming. Vitaly Bilyy, who portrayed the elder Germont, sang a lusty "Di Provenza, il mar, il suol" ("The sea and soil of Provence") which he capped off with it's seldom heard, simple, but melodic cabaletta.

Los Angeles mezzo Peabody Southwell was an animated Flora with a creamy voice whose personality would have captivated any group of men. She has sung many comprimario roles with this company and she was totally confident on the main stage. Erica Petrocelli, a member of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, was a compassionate Annina.

Attending the Demi-Monde parties were Alok Kumar as a smooth Vicomte Gastone, Wayne Tigges as a sonorous Baron Douphol, and young artist program member Juan Carlos Heredia as a commanding Marquis D'Obigny. Christopher Job was the important Doctor who attended Violetta and provided bass harmonies. Grant Gershon's chorus added complexity to the parties and visual candy to their set pieces.

At this performance, James Conlon again conducted the opera in which he made his well remembered 2006 LAO debut. I think he led the opera a bit faster this time, but it was never rushed. He offered a brisk and lively reading of Verdi's immortal score that resulted in a fascinating evening at Los Angeles Opera. La Traviata will be at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through June 22.

Photo: Craig T. Mathew