Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Tragic love story gets the Lyric touch
|Lyric Opera of Chicago presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Alongside the extensive spectacle of Wagner’s Parsifal, the Lyric is simultaneously offering a Verdi classic. La Traviata is simply gorgeous. After navigating through the complexity of Wagner’s world, we are back to opera basics, a tragic love story. As much as Parsifal is about the musical pageantry, La Traviata is all about passionate singing. Seeing these offerings back to back showcases why the Lyric is world renown.
La Traviata starts subtle. As Conductor Massimo Zanetti sets the tone with the sweeping Verdi overture, Director Arin Arbus invites the audience to peek in at Marina Rebeka (Violetta) getting ready for the party. Through the lace curtain, we see a reluctant Rebeka slowly dress. This persona contrasts dramatically as the opera begins and she becomes the vivacious party girl. Rebeka arrives in splendor and captivates until the conclusion. Her duet with Joseph Calleja (Alfredo) turns fervent flirtations into embroiled passion. Rebeka connects the audience to her every emotion, from despair to love to angst. When she pledges her love to Alfredo, I’m completely smitten. When she sings ‘what joy’, I get a shiver of hope. Her delight is so genuine that I momentarily forget what happens next. Calleja holds his own, first as the lovesick suitor and later as the revenge seeker. Calleja sings sweet and bitter with equal intensity.
Set Designer Riccardo Hernandez creates a stark, curved backdrop. The two party scenes fill his empty stage with color. At the initial festive gathering, Costume and Puppet Designer Cait O’Connor mixes elegance with sizzle. The masquerade ball has the chorus disguised as various creatures. The look is a whimsical frolic. Later, at the Baron’s party, the dress and lighting (Designer Marcus Doshi) is bathed in red. The aesthetic hints at love lost or at least hidden. Vibrant globe lanterns dangle from the ceiling. Although these two scenes are pretty to look at, the one at a country home, is fairly stagnant. An oversized screen projects fall foliage in the background. It’s definitely not as dynamic as the party rooms.
La Traviata is beautifully sung. One of my all-time favorite opera arias is executed flawlessly by Rebeka. Although this classic is a sure thing, I fear it’s in the mammoth shadows of the Parsifal extravaganza.
La Traviata continues through December 20th at Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker (map). Tickets are $54-$284, and are available by phone (312-322-2244) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at LyricOpera.org. (Running time: 3 hours, includes two intermissions)
Marina Rebeka (Violetta), Joseph Calleja (Alfredo), Quinn Kelsey (Giorgio Germont), J’nai Bridges (Flora), Julie Anne Miller (Annina), Adam Bonanni (Gastone), John Irvin (Giuseppe), Nicholas Pallesen (Baron), Will Liverman (Marquis), Richard Ollarsaba (Dr. Grenvil), Anthony Clark Evans (Commissioner)
behind the scenes
Massimo Zanetti (conductor), Arin Arbus (director), Riccardo Hernandez (set design), Cait O’Connor (costume design, puppetry design), Marcus Doshi (lighting design), Michael Black (chorus master), Austin McCormick (choreographer), Todd Rosenberg, Robert Kusel (photos)