Review by Willard Manus
LA TRAVIATA is a bread-and-butter attraction for most opera companies, a popular work that has been filling auditorium seats since 1853, thanks to Verdi's inspired score and Francesco Maria Piave's heart-rending portrait of the doomed love affair between Parisian courtesan Violetta and country-bumpkin Alfredo.
Recently, Los Angeles Opera revisited the opera for the umpteenth time--with unexpected and startling results. The company cast two young, relatively unknown singers in the main roles: Marina Poplavskaya and Massimo Giordano. Both delivered superb performances, turning the familiar LA TRAVIATA into a fresh and compelling work, one that crackled with heat and intensity.
Giordano, seen last year at the Music Center in La Boheme, is a tenor with a big, rich voice. He also acts well and made his love for Violetta palpable. No doubt he will, as his voice deepens and matures, win major acclaim in the years to come.
As for the Russian-born Poplavskaya (a soprano who came to international attention as Rachel in La Juive in Covent Garden in 2006), she is already at the top of her form, exhibiting a voice that is as beautiful as it is powerful, one that triumphed over all the vocal challenges Verdi put in front of her (especially in the opera's lirico spinto final death scene). Grant Gershon, LA Opera's associate conductor/chorus master, also deserves high praise for his work in the pit, leading the company orchestra in clear, forceful fashion. Marta Domingo's direction was effective and choreographer Kitty McNamee made the Parisian party scenes come alive (especially when Timo Nunez danced a solo flamenco).
LA TRAVIATA was the concluding production of LA Opera's 2008/2009 season. For tickets and information concerning the upcoming season, call 213-972-8001 or visit www.laopera.com