Reviewed by Tony Villecco
Attending Tri-Cities Opera’s final dress rehearsal Wednesday (Feb. 9) for Giuseppe Verdi’s perennial favorite, La Traviata, I did not believe this production could surpass the excellence of last fall’s Cosi Fan Tutte. I was wrong. What maestro John Mario Di Costanzo has done is to, literally, transform the opera’s orchestra to such a high level of playing that it’s hard to imagine these already fine musicians could sound even better.
Di Costanzo has an innate ability to draw out the finer nuances of Verdi’s rich score, from the haunting prelude (played beautifully by the strings and brass) to his attention to detail with every soloist and choral moment. He “breathes” with his singers, giving them room for ample interpretive moments and deep artistic liberty with Verdi’s riveting music.
As Violetta Valéry, the operas doomed heroine, soprano Victoria Cannizzo was a stand-out. Vocally, she had no difficulty with the heavy demands of the role. Her coloratura was assured and her lovely pianissimo notes floated over the auditorium like a veiled mist. The famous “Sempre libera” was a mark of artistry. Strikingly beautiful, Cannizzo captured the genesis of Violetta’s hopeful but tragic circumstance — to love and to be loved.
Tenor Kirk Dougherty looked like a Greek God as her naïve lover, Alfredo Germont. His tone has become even richer and warmer than in previous hearings, and he has developed an Italianate “cry” in the voice that showed a great emotional connection to the role. His second-act aria,”De miei bollenti spiriti,” was striking and he even sang the difficult cabaletta, “O mio rimorso,” which tenors often omit.
Veteran baritone Guido LeBrón brought his acclaimed interpretation of the elder Germont to vivid reality. LeBrón has a natural and arresting stage presence. His delineation of the father’s misunderstanding and eventual remorse was palpable, and his strong rich voice had no difficulties with the role. Particularly moving was the famous “Di Provenza il mar.” Another highlight was the moving duet “Ditte alla giovine” with Cannizzo.
The smaller supporting roles were all cast well, especially ? Lee as Violetta’s vixen friend, Flora. Tenor Brister Hay sang the Marchese with Christina Kompar as Violetta’s maid, Annina; Garry Leonberger as Gastone and John Rozzoni as the Baron. As usual, bass-baritone Will Roberts took advantage of a basically limited role in his portrayal of Doctor Grenvil.
Stage director Laura Alley did a marvelous job in small touches that depicted both the blossoming love and ensuing tragedy. Particularly effective was a picnic scene and, in the final act, Violetta’s realization of her failing health when she pulls off a sheet covering her bedroom mirror.
The lovely period costumes were coordinated by Arlene Lyon. The handsome sets were designed by Robert Little with equally effective mood lighting by Joe Beck. As usual, the fine TCO chorus, drilled by John Isenberg, was exceptional.
Performances of La Traviata, in Italian with English surtitles, will be 8 p.m. Friday (Feb. 11) and 3 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 13) at The Forum, 236 Washington St., Binghamton. Details: www.tricitiesopera.com; www.broomeforum.com. Box office: 772-0400.