La Traviata
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In Review > North America

La Traviata

New Orleans Opera

VERDI'S LA TRAVIATA opened the seventy-third season of the New Orleans Opera Association on October 9. The opera had last been presented locally in 2009. For this production, all three leads and the stage director were debut artists with the Company.

Soprano Gabrielle Philiponet, a lovely actress gifted with a fresh and attractive voice, was the Violetta. As with many exponents of this role, Philiponet was at her best in the music of Acts II and III.  During Act I, in the high-lying moments of the score, her tone had a tendency to lose focus, a problem that disappeared as the evening progressed. “Sempre libera” was cleanly articulated, although Philiponet should rethink adding the unwritten high note that audiences have often come to expect. Particularly moving was her reading of the letter in what was a radiantly sung final act.

Her Alfredo was tenor Daniel Montenegro, whose poignantly acted portrayal was decidedly on the lyric side, although he negotiated “O mio rimorso” with ample power.  Throughout the evening the tenor’s singing was distinguished by elegant sound and sensitive phrasing.

Bel canto honors of the evening undoubtedly went to baritone Weston Hurt as an unusually sympathetic Germont père. An artist of noble stature and bearing, Hurt understood not only this complex character but also the true sense of Verdian style that the music requires. “Di Provenza” was the supreme vocal highlight of the performance and earned the artist a well-deserved ovation. 

Carla Dirlikov offered a well-sung, sympathetic Flora. However, with the exception of Kathryn Frady as Annina, most of the other comprimario roles were far less adequately handled.

James Marvel’s direction was squarely on the traditional side, offering no new insights in the staging, but not offending either. Stage groupings were effective and realistic. David Gano’s scenic designs, now in their twenty-fifth year of use, are still attractive, although at times too darkly lit. 

Matters overall were not helped by the pedestrian and frequently overloud conducting of Robert Lyall, who seemed unable to illumine Verdi’s music with the required rhythmic flow so necessary in this score. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra played well and the chorus sang lustily, especially in the great Act II concertato. Yet the overall effect was of a performance that lacked fire and musical cohesiveness, as the tragic story of the doomed lovers unfolded on stage.  —George Dansker 


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