La Traviata - LA Opera Debut

LA Opera Ensemble

The LA Opera brings its 20th Anniversary Celebration to a close with Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata. Directed by Marta Domingo, the brilliant score and captivating drama of La Traviata will undoubtedly have the audience wildy applauding night after night. The soaring arias and passionate duets make La Traviata one of the most popular operas of all times.

Suzanna Guzman as Flora Bervoix and Lee Poulis as Marquis d'Obigny

La Traviata takes place in Paris in the 1840s, the same decade when Verdi lived there. The protagonist, Violetta Valery (Soprano Elizabeth Futral who first conquered Los Angeles as Cleopatra in 2001's Giulio Cesare) is a famous, beautiful, and doomed Parisian courtesan. Suffering incurable and ill-fated illness, she gives herself over to decadent pleasures and surrounds herself with glamorous friends, dazzling parties, and wealthy admirers. Alfredo Germont (Tenor Joseph Calleja debuting at the LA Opera) is the young lover that takes Violetta away into a dream of happiness that cannot last. After his declaration of true love, Violetta realizes the emptiness of her frivolous life. She decides to give up everything she has for a romantic reverie with Alfredo that will inevitably end in heartbreaking tragedy.  Giorgio Germont (1996 Richard Tucker Foundation Award winner and LA Opera veteran, Dwayne Croft) is the father of Alfredo, Violetta's lover, whose devotion to his family and, more importantly, smug bourgeois moral standards lead to sorrowful sacrifice and calamity.  

Elizabeth Futral as Violetta Valery

John Fiore conducts this visually stunning production which features lighting design by Trevor Stirlin Burk and choreography by Kitty McNamee. Casting also includes Suzanna Guzman as Flora Bervoix, Peter Nathan Foltz as Gastone, Lee Poulis as Marquis D'obigny, Philip Kraus as Baron Douphol, Jinyoung Jang as Doctor Grenvil, and Jessica Swink as Annina.

Elizabeth Futral as Violetta Valery and Joseph Calleja as Alfredo Germont

La Traviata is a story about real places and real people of Verdi's time. In the beginning, the opera was considered to be unconventional and served more as a social commentary than as an entertainment piece. Violetta is modeled after Marie Duplessis, the most famous of French Courtesans, or demi-mondaines. Demi-mondaines were a kind of  deluxe  prostitute who existed during France's Second Empire, starting in 1840, and went into  Belle Epoque , ending in 1914. This period was characterized by a variety of excesses. The French people cast aside woeful thoughts of revolution, violence, and mortality. Instead, they enjoyed life to the fullest, living day by day without concern for the future. Spending money became a kind of sport and men often squandered away entire fortunes. Thus, they were driven purely by corporeal desires. This created a perfect environment for the development of demi-mondaines. These ladies are not the equivalent to our common-day prostitutes by any means. Some achieved a very high social status, like Marie Duplessis, whose fame equals that of Madonna's in our time. Not only did their social fame and social status soar, but their bank accounts as well. They garnered fabulous riches, for they were the desired by incredibly wealthy and powerful men like royalty and aristocrats. For the demi-mondaines, love affairs were purely business relationships. While they gave their bodies to the relationship, they kept their hearts free of the burden of any emotional attachments. They used their beauty, and most of all their wit, to intoxicate and toy with the egos, and bank accounts, of the men who desired them. By doing so, they were able to achieve a comfortable existence and a privileged position in their social structure.

Elizabeth Futral as Vioetta Valery and Joseph Calleja as Alfredo Germont

In literature, however, the demi-mondaine acquired a heart. Her single weakness was that she had the intense need to love and be loved, often finding that need fulfilled by a young man with very different morals. With the all-encompassing love of this young man serving as a guiding light, she would suddenly see the frivolousness and seemingly meaninglessness of her life as a demi-mondaine. However, while she may be able to transition from a life as a demi-mondaine to a life as a wife, her past does not disappear. Instead, it haunts her. Her sins of the past seem unforgivable, and she is not deserving of the love-filled present. The future is hopeless. And here we have our La Traviata, meaning  the woman who has lost her way.  For Verdi, she is not a sinner, not a whore, not deserving of the humiliation, abuse, and judgement she unfairly receives. She has just lost her way. Thus La Traviata is a controversial and revolutionary opera because his protagonist is the moral-less and lascivious woman society looks down upon. Violetta is a protagonist the audience cannot help but adore, understand, sympathize, and want a happy ending for her. This is very much the opposite of how Verdi's bourgeois society viewed demi-mondaines. They were scandalous, licentious women encased in sin. At its premiere in Venice in 1853, this  immoral  story was only moderately successful. Verdi was not discouraged and immediately revised his opera. It reopened in 1854, where it was a huge success in his time and went on to be one of the most famous operas of all time.

Elizabeth Futral as Vioetta Valery and Joseph Calleja as Alfredo Germont

Under the direction of Marta Domingo, the LA Opera performed La Traviata perfectly. It was absolutely breath-taking. The casts voices reverberated through the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion warmly wrapping the audience in the happiness, sadness, sorrow, pain, jealousy, and outrage, all of the emotions the characters were experiencing. The arias and duets were intoxicating and had the audience entranced from the first rise of the curtain.

LA Opera Ensemble

The set design was equally exquisite with a different set for each scene. The extravagance of the set and costumes mirrored the extravagance of the time, Paris in the 1840s. Each set was so impressive, in fact, that when the curtain raised in the beginning of each scene, the set garnered an excited applause from the audience  The first scene took place in Violetta's house in Paris. A massive and gleaming chandelier hovered above the stage, constantly flickering as shimmering light reflected through its crystals. A white grand piano sat upon the stage. The chorus gracefully leaned upon the piano in between strutting around stage with martini glasses in hand. Since Violetta was throwing one of her lavish parties, the chorus and cast were adorned in every sparkling piece of costume jewelry Los Angeles has to offer  Ropes upon ropes of diamonds hung from their necks, bracelets covered the full length of their forearms, and tiaras rested upon their heads. Dazzling period dresses speckled with crystals and sequins glimmered more than the chandelier. The entire stage was shining, shimmering, gleaming, glimmering, and sparking with beautiful operatic voices and costumes!

Elizabeth Futral as Violetta Valery

In the last scene, we find a dying, impoverished, and abandoned Violetta. She is wearing a white nightdress, hair loose, and lays peacefully on a round bed covered with green and white sheets and pillows. The back drop is simply black with only a large, orange moon serving as the only decoration. In the moon is the sketch of a man and woman wrapped in each other's arms. Ropes of white lights of various lengths, much like the diamonds necklaces we saw in the first scene decorating the women, hang above the stage. A light snow falls upon the stage. This vision is exquisite. A pale Violetta adorned in her white nightdress and dark hair framing her face is a gentle and fragile as the snowflakes falling upon the stage. As she moves about the stage, her silk of her dress creates waves of fabric about her body, and she uses her dark tresses as a dramatic tool sometimes running her fingers tenderly through her hair, or grabbing at it in frustration and hatred of death. It is a picture-perfect ending to a picture-perfect opera.

LA Opera Ensemble

The audience fell in love with the characters, set, and opera over and over again with each curtain rising. We were lulled deeper and deeper into the world of La Traviata at every passing, music-filled, sparkle-filled minute. As the last note of music concluded, the audience jumped to its feet giving the cast a standing ovation that lasted for nearly 5 minutes. We just could not get enough of our lovely demi-mondaine, our  La Traviata,  our Violetta and her world.

Elizabeth Futral as Vioetta Valery and Joseph Calleja as Alfredo Germont

For more information, click here.

Photographs courtesy of Robert Millard

Top of Page

lasplash.com
Join Splash Magazines

Feature Article

Tempflow™ and Tempur-Pedic® Reviews - What 35 Hours of Research Uncovered

Want Your Business to Male a Splash
<!-- #wrapper -->