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Subject: La Traviata - FGO - 21 Nov 2008
From: Sergio da Silva <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Sergio da Silva <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 23 Nov 2008 09:39:37 -0500
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Florida Grand Opera opened its 68th season with a new production of La
Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi (a co-production with the Cincinatti opera). The
sets and costumes designed by Allen Charles Klein both looked wonderful and
very traditional. The back of the set was the same for all the acts, a
semi-circle of huge venetian-blind like doors encircling the stage and with
a decoration at the top in a roman-style architecture of the letter "V" (I
assume stands for Violetta Valery). The rest of the stage changed according
to the action, so in Act I there was a big mirror and a fireplace to the far
left of the stage (with some love-seats) (where Violetta says "O qual
pallor" when she doesn't feel well during the party), a table with some
chairs and to the far right a sofa (where actually Alfredo launches on
"Libiamo"). Act II - Scene 1 changed completely with a beautiful green
garden and in Act II-Scene 2 it changed again to a red decoration (with a
table/stage for dancing in the middle, a staircase to the left - where papa
Germont makes his entrance - and a table for gaming at the far right). Act
III was similar to Act I, but much gloomier (cast in a blackish light) and
with a bed to the back left and a sofa to the right. The production was
staged by Bliss Herbert and he did a good job (the chorus moved well).with
some nice touches, for example, Violetta starts writing the letter to Flora
(Act II - scene 1) accepting the invitation to a party when she decides to
leave Alfredo for the Baron (as the only way to end their relationship).

Violetta Valery was entrusted to Eglise Gutierrez, I had seen her before
live but only singing an aria (a coloratura piece I don't remember).
Gutierrez was excellent in Act 3, really moving and arresting, she sang a
beautiful "Addio del passato" which ended in a rarity, a beautifully placed
pianissimo (I've heard many a soprano fail in the note which closes the aria
which is actuallly very hard to sing). Gutierrez's Act 2, Scene 2 (at
Flora's party) was equally good, she floated "Alfredo, Alfredo" very
beautifully in the ensemble which closes the Act. But I do have concerns in
Act II, Scene 1 (a central pivoting point in the opera), where there is the
duet with the baritone (papa Germont) and Violetta's big outburst ("Amami,
Alfredo"). The problem is her voice is fine from the middle up, but from the
middle down it is very small and has really trouble projecting over the
orchestra (in this repertoire, middle Verdi). So "Amami, Alfredo" went for
naught, and in the duet she was easily outclassed by the baritone, Luis
Ledesma (not his fault, just naturally her voice doe not fit in this scene).
My other reservation is the usual with most Violetta's, the lack of a trill
and coloratura ornaments, I know it seems absurd since Gutierrez is a
"coloratura" soprano, but one could be fooled that night (except for the
high notes). On the other hand, she not only sang the high E in "Sempre
libera" but dwelled on it (sustaining it a few bars), which I have to say
"Bravo". Her high notes were excellent as well.

Alfredo Germont was sung by Stephen Costello, whom incidentally I had seen
live before as Edgado at the MET. I was very close to the stage and was
surprised how young he is (I understand he is 26-27 but looks even younger)
which lends a lot of credibility to the role. Costello sang a fine Alfredo,
his best moment was when Alfredo insults Violetta in Act II-Scene 2, "Ogni
suo aver tal femmina". Costello also delivered a good "De' miei bollenti
spiriti". But Costello needs more experience, more pianissimo and more
dynamics, sometimes Costello was too emphatic. Costello also had one
misshap, Costello sang the cabaletta "Oh mio rimorso!" (a rarity in FGO) and
decided to take the high note at the end, well that night Costello
unfortunately cracked, it was not very noticeable because the music ends in
a bang (in the orchestra); Costello was also smart because the moment the
note did not come out right, he let it go.

Giorgio Germont (or papa Germont) was sung by Luis Ledesma, a singer unknown
to me, sang and characterized very well, with a solid voice and nice
dynamics.

The other minor roles could have been better sung.

Aldo Sisilllo was the conductor and he did a good job, the orchestra as
always was a little bit "thin" in the strings and could not deliver the
dynamics Sisillo was asking for, but the score moved along well.

An enjoyable night, with a particular memorable Act 3.

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