Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) La Traviata

La Traviata dress rehearsal photo credit: David Pasho

In the presence of the divine
by Nan Cormier

One might expect that a concert presentation of an opera might lack some of the emotion, soul and pathos of the fully staged opera.  But last night, in the first of two performances of Opera Lyra’s concert presentation of La Traviata, in Southam Hall, at the National Arts Centre, the lack of staging and sets which at first seemed to limit the physicality of the cast, were quickly eclipsed by the sheer beauty of the production.

La Traviata, by Guiseppe Verdi, is the story of a Violetta, a courtesan, who falls in love with a younger man, Alfredo, only to be asked to let him go by his father, Giorgio Germont in order to save his family’s honour. Violetta agrees out of love for Alfredo, and leaves the countryside, for Paris.  When Alfredo comes on the scene he misunderstands why she has left him and reacts badly, vowing revenge the next time he sees her.  All this time, Violetta is dying of tuberculosis.  Finally, Alfredo’s father explains the reason why Violetta has left him.  But by then, it is too late.  Violetta is at death’s door when Alfredo arrives at her bedside to beg her forgiveness.

This is no ordinary soprano.

La Traviata is a  soprano’s opera, and there is absolutely no way any singer can make it through the whole opera if they do not pace themselves from the very beginning, particularly in the first Act, which may explain why I felt Corinne Winters’ performance started out slowly.  That being said, her Violetta soon has the full house spellbound. Fuelled by an exhilarating vocal dexterity, her voice is so richly coloured and powerful that throughout her performance I could hear people sitting nearby sighing or softly moaning at the end of a poignant aria or catching their breath at the top of a high note which seemed to emanate from somewhere beyond the stage on which Violetta stood. This is no ordinary soprano. As Violetta’s body weakens Corinne Winters’ voice grows in intensity and drama, and it tears at the heart. There were too many high points in her performance to count, but the most poignant is her exquisite legato performance of Violetta’s farewell to life, “Addio del passato” in Act III.  

As Violetta’s younger lover, Alfredo, played by American tenor, Eric Margiore, delivers a straightforward and passionate performance.  His duet with Violetta at the end of the Act I is breathtaking.  His phrasing and the lyrical quality of his voice provides a counterbalance to the powerhouse that is Ms Winters’ Violetta.  Both his and Ms Winters’ acting abilities are complementary and become more heartrending as the scenes between them become more intimate, especially in Act III.  

When Gregory Dahl as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father, appears on stage early in Act II it is with such a commanding presence, that we sense a physical change in Violetta; we sense her listening acutely to his every word as he explains that he has come to ask her for a sacrifice. In his beautifully resonant baritone, Mr. Dahl gives a finely nuanced performance as the emotionally conflicted Giorgio.  

The rest of the cast provided solid and impressive backup particularly Marian Newman as Flora Bervoix, Isabelle Lacroix as Violetta’s maid, Annina, Benjamin Covey as Marchese d’Obigny, Jonathan Estabrooks as Barone Douphol, Brian Wehrle as Doctor Grenville, Niels Aschengreen as Gastone. If the opera has one flaw it is that these extremely talented performers do not get more time on stage.   

And then there is the Opera Lyra Chorus which was fully integrated into the melodic and dramatic flow of the concert. It was a treat to see them on stage.

From the light and airy overture to the enthusiastic splendour of the choral pieces to the drama and tenderness of the final Act, conductor Tyrone Paterson coaxes the NAC Orchestra through Verdi’s romantic and opulent music.  I loved that I could see him complimenting the orchestra whenever there was a break in the music for applause.

This incredible evening ended in a standing ovation and the emotional outpouring of the audience for the performers, especially Corinne Winters, who has only just begun to rock the world of opera!

1 comment:

  1. Well written review! Makes me wish I would have heard of it before. Will definitely keep an eye out for up-coming operas! Thank you!


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