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La Traviata

In breaking the stranglehold of religion over moral reasoning, the arts have necessarily tread on controversial ground, sometimes at the price of lives and careers. And clearly, much of the world, including America, is still in the sway of such hypocritical posturing, which is what continues to make venerable works such as Guiseppe Verdi's La Traviata as relevant as ever.

Verdi's choice of a hard-drinking, party hardy courtesan as his heroine raised the cockles of the censors in Venice, who would not permit him to stage the premiere in contemporary dress, less anyone think such a person as Violetta Valery lived amongst them.

Pamela Armstrong as Violetta
Pamela Armstrong as Violetta
Photo: Matthew Staver
If that weren't affront enough to Venician sensibilities, Violetta exhibits a greater sense of Christian sacrifice than anyone else in the story, in particular the upstanding Giorgio Germont, whose moral pretentions precipitate the tragedy.

In Opera Colorado's current production, we are treated to a host of fine voices that, combined with maestro Stephen Lord's sensitive pacing, showcase the rich melodic treasures of this masterpiece.

From her coquettish coloratura to her impassioned, dreamy paeans to love, Pamela Armstrong's Violetta dazzles us with her lovely soprano and heartfelt emotions. As Alfredo, Garrett Sorenson's ardor is compelling as he luxuriates in the Italian poetry and phrasing. Scott Hendricks' rich baritone is both commanding and complimentary.

Pamela Armstrong as Violetta and Garrett Sorenson as Alfredo
Pamela Armstrong as Violetta
and Garrett Sorenson as Alfredo
Photo: Matthew Staver
In traditional quarters, such blessings are generally sufficient to keep everyone happy, but given the rising dramatic standards of modern opera, a couple of distractions prevent this production from its full cathartic potential.

As Ovation!, Opera Colorado's own magazine, notes in its fall edition, Verdi was "displeased with his cast, beginning with a zaftig soproano to portray his consumptive heroine." For all her beauty, fine voice, and consummate acting, Pamela Armstrong never looks as if she is dying of consumption.

It is also traditional for Germont to be played as the villain, but doing so, as we see in Scott Hendricks' performance, undermines the gratitude he expresses to Violetta at her country home and, later, his regret at her death-bed.

Finally, despite Violetta's occupation, we see that she is not without taste, as her wardrobe and hostessing attest. So why is it that she entertains in such garrish surroundings; after all, her drawing room isn't a bordello.

Opera Colorado's La Traviata concludes with performances November 13, 15, and 18 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. 303-357-ARTS or www.operacolorado.org

Bob Bows

 

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