La Traviata is a lush emotional experience

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By Melissa Riedel Espinoza

Verdi’s La Traviata is a musical masterpiece. The story, about a couple who fall in love, break up, then get back together just before the tragic ending, is one opera-goers have seen played out on stages hundreds of times. This one, however, has characters with substance, along with lush music that truly heightens the emotional experience.

Audiences often times think of the stage as a backdrop for the action, but it is truly an integral part of this piece, as in the second act, where the blue skies in pieces all over the stage set the tone and reinforce the fact that Violetta and Alfredo exist in their own little heaven in the country. The costumes also stand out in this opera; in particular, Violetta’s dress in the first act, which is stunning and a gorgeous contrast to the spare dress she wears in the country, which has its own charm, as well.

The singers all do a beautiful job with Verdi’s masterpiece. Brenda Rae is a solid Violetta, whose voice gets better and better as the opera goes on. The transformation between the coarse, vulgar Violetta in the first act and the angelic Violetta at the end is lovely to watch. Michael Fabiano, as Alfredo, has a full voice that has no problems handling the demands of his role, and Violetta and Alfredo have great chemistry together, which is a must in this particular production, as these two do not limit their displays of affection to merely hand-holding, as is the case in many operas.

Roland Wood performs the role of Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, and he does an admirable job of portraying a character that is, much of the time, difficult to like. His dark voice contrasts nicely with the lightness of Violetta’s voice, and he brings an attitude to his character that emphasizes the disapproval Germont, and society at that time, felt for women like Violetta, who were living outside of the normally accepted societal parameters.

The supporting performers in this opera are also consistently outstanding. In the third act, women with covered faces dance at a party that is attended by Violetta and Alfredo, who aren’t a couple anymore. The choreography in parts of this act looks like it may have been tricky to get together, but it is just perfect, as it pulls the other scenes together and says a great deal about the tone of the entire opera.

Santa Fe Opera’s current production of La Traviata is a revival, but for those who may have attended a 2009 performance, there is more to see.

Although it is only about two and a half hours long, it’s probably not the best choice for children, as the subject matter is more adult and may be difficult for them to understand. This revival’s cast brings a different style to a frequently performed opera.

In addition, the costumes and staging are interesting and the music is so special, it’s worth coming back for a second look.