The Cast of "La Traviata"
(photo: Eric Antoniou for Boston Lyric Opera)
In this production, Soprano Anya Matanovic, in her BLO debut, starred as Violetta, one of those operatic courtesans with a heart of gold, who gambles everything for a chance at true love. Tenor Michael Wade Lee (also in his BLO debut) portrayed Alfredo, her ardent lover who first loses but ultimately gains his Violetta in that justly famed reconciliation scene. Both began a bit tentatively but eventually slipped comfortably into their roles. Matanovic particularly shined with her vulnerability and honesty in her death scene. Alfredo’s father Germont, intent on preserving the honor of his family at all costs, was played by baritone Weston Hurt, recently heard at Boston Odyssey Opera’s concert of Korngold’s “Die todt Stadt”; he was the vocal hit of the performance with his commanding singing. Also featured were members and alumni of the BLO’s estimable Emerging Artists program, including Jon Jurgens (Gastone), Chelsea Basler (Flora), David Wadden (D‘Obigny), Rachel Hauge (Annina), Omar Najmi (Giuseppe), and David Cushing (Doctor). David Kravitz was the Baron. The performance was conducted by Arthur Fagen (mostly competent, if the pacing was more than slightly lugubrious in the scene between Alfredo and his father) and Directed by Chas Rader-Shieber. The Boston Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus gave some depth to the familiar score. Technical credits included effective Lighting Design by Mike Inwood, and Wigs and Makeup Design by Jason Allen. The most controversial technical element was the Set Design by Julia Noulin-Mérat, minimalist to a fault in the first half of the production (except for the edge of what was such a mammoth painting that Violetta must have been inhabiting an airplane hanger). After intermission the scene at Flora’s party was truly bizarre, seemingly aping 1930’s Berlin decadence with its distractingly gross debauchery. The Costume Design by Jacob A. Climer for this scene (straight out of “Cabaret”) and Violetta’s demise (oddly sporting a train that must have been over twenty-five feet long) added to the strangeness of the proceedings.
But “Traviata” is all about the music, and in the end that’s where the BLO truly delivered. It was a worthy start to what looks like a very promising season. Next up for the BLO is a far less familiar yet enticing production of Frank Martin’s “The Love Potion”, opening on November 19th.