Merola Opera presented Traviata August 7 at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga,
California, and a wonderful time was had by all. Perhaps the *most* fun
was had by the Flora and Gastone, Shelley Crawford and Francisco Almanza.
These two had been seen in last summer's Merola programme, and at
Montalvo and on the Western Opera Tour had done over thirty performances
of Carmen. So the chance to "send up" the Escamillo and Carmen
interaction of the second act as the entertainment at Flora's party must
have been a joy indeed.
The cast was all young, from about twenty to very early thirties. It
makes a difference, folks, when young people sing the roles. Violetta
was Caroline Worra, Alfredo was Rolando Villazon, Germont pere was James
Westmore. The other roles and chorus were the rest of the summer's crop,
who will sing the principals Saturday, and will rotate the roles on tour.
The first cast will be heard again on Sunday.
A major irritation of the evening was the "counter beat" from the Doobie
Brothers, who were also performing at a nearby winery. Otherwise the
sound was excellent. The operas are done in the open air, in a lovely
theatre at the back of the villa. There was no amplification, and
everyone could be heard clearly throughout the area.
While we have several very fine tenors this year, Villazon as Alfredo was
outstanding. Worra's Violetta was moving, clearly sung, and her piano
passages, as in the final act, were stunning. This is a most impressive
young lady. Their acting was strong. Westman as Germont pere was
everything that I could have asked for.
This has been a wonderful start to the weekend. If you are in Northern
California and can get there, do come to hear and see one of the
remaining shows. If you can't, then in a day or two I will post the
schedule of the Western Opera Theatre tour, so you can check if they will
be "coming soon to a theatre near you".
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