A Parisian Traviata SpectacleReview
This production of Vancouver Opera’s La traviata is a co-production with five Canadian companies (Manitoba Opera, Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Vancouver Opera, and Opéra de Montréal), and one I reviewed last season for Pacific Opera Victoria.
The setting is 1920s Paris, where Violetta is a showgirl, appearing at the top of the stairs in a sumptuous, Folies Bergère-style costume, overflowing with feathers and glitter, before she descends into a coughing fit betraying her declining health.
The Parisian setting is an ideal locale for Traviata, full of gaiety and life, and the sets and costumes, designed by Christina Poddubiuk are opulent, extravagant and set the scene for the most elegant of parties. Lighting design by Kevin Lamotte was at times luscious, subtle, or dark, and added great underscoring to the action of the show.
Emily Dorn as Violetta in this production brings great characterization and nuance to a difficult role. Far from being a frivolous socialite/courtesan, Dorn shows Violetta’s frustration and grief as she gradually loses everything she holds dear. While it was occasionally difficult to hear her in her lower register, her high range and coloratura soar over the large ensembles. In her final scene, rather than being dejected at facing her death, Dorn shows Violetta’s distress about losing everything, and her death was incredibly powerful and touching.
Andrew Haji as Alfredo is a tour de force. Vocally stunning and with high notes to spare, his bright, agile tenor was superb, and positively brought the house down. In his confrontation with Violetta in Act II, his conflict at publicly shaming Violetta was palpable, full of feelings of betrayal and sadness over his loss of her.
Giorgio Germont, played by Chenye Yuan is much more reserved than his impetuous son. Yuan’s Germont is stoic and matter-of-fact about needing Violetta to leave Alfredo. Although he seemed to struggle with the high notes in “Di provenza,” he provides a calm counterpart to the emotional, tempestuous Alfredo.
Stage direction by Alain Gauthier and choreography by Tracey Power make Act II an energetic powerhouse. The chorus, under the direction of Leslie Dala, has a magnificent gyspy dance and matador scene, complete with party-goers in bull’s horns. The entire party is lively and exciting, and so many great sidelines with the chorus that everywhere you looked there is something happening. The chorus is powerful in the ensembles, and brings the life of the party to Acts I and III.
This production is feast for the eyes and ears. So much to see and listen to, full of emotional highs and lows, and a stage full of amazing talent.