Orlando Phil takes you to 1920s Paris with a new La Traviata
If you’ve ever longed for the Paris of the 1920s – that seemingly bygone era that still resonates with some of us for its glamour, refined taste and multicultural arts – take a trip there this weekend with the Orlando Phil’s new production of Verdi’s classic La Traviata.
The opera, a feast for the eyes and ears, features some of the most memorable music in the history of the genre, and the new production boasts energetic ensemble choral episodes and a supremely talented trio of leads. Cuban soprano Elizabeth Caballero plays Violetta, the young courtesan who is wary of a passion that in the end consumes her as much as her tuberculosis does. The singer’s colorful vocal style and superhuman projection filled the Bob Carr during the last dress rehearsal (to which the Phil kindly invited a group of local arts writers and bloggers). If you’ve never experienced the raw unamplified power of an electrifying singer backed up by a 61-piece orchestra, this weekend is your chance.
American Brian Jagde plays the young Alfredo, who steals Violetta’s heart. First meeting her at a party, he confesses his love and secret daily visits to her during her recent illness. To celebrate her recovery, he gives a toast to life – the famous “Libiamo” drinking aria. If you thought you didn’t like opera or haven’t heard any, well, you have heard “Libiamo.” And it’s worth seeing and hearing it in full swing with the full cast supporting Jagde’s warm and inspired tenor voice.
The boy-meets-girl story still rings familiar to this day and has loosely inspired films such as Moulin Rouge! and Pretty Woman, but Verdi’s score fully supports the style and action, flawlessly merging drama and music. Of course a story of this kind isn’t complete without a dramatic breakup and emotional tensions: Enter Giorgio, Alfredo’s father, who wants his son’s relationship with Violetta called off for familial reasons. Stephen Powell plays the role with an imposing baritone, completing this dynamic trio of leads.
Stage director Frank McClain calls his new production with the OPO “opera without walls,” owing to the set elements and elaborate costumes that bring the story and time period to life, but with the orchestra placed onstage, as if they were a silent participant of the unfolding drama. An essential behind-the-scenes contributor to the production is costume designer Bobbie Demme-San Fillipo. She describes the collaborative approach among her team of hair and make-up artists, combined with the props and backdrop, as a Seurat painting, in which “all the little points of light and color become one big painting.”
If you swooned for the opulence of the 1920s in recent movies such as Midnight in Paris or The Great Gatsby, you’ll enjoy the experience of a live and spirited display of costumes, make-up, choreography, song and dance that recollects the panache of the decade and immerses you for an emotional ride. If you’re a fan of musical theater or the great American musicals, you’re just a step away from the wonders of opera with this new accessible production. Grab a pair of tickets for this weekend’s performance and climb that step up!
Orlando Philharmonic presents La Traviata at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre:
- 8 p.m. Friday, May 9
- 2 p.m. Sunday, May 11
To purchase tickets, visit orlandophil.org/tickets or call 407-770-0071.