Review: ‘La traviata’ by the Washington National Opera

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Washington National Opera’s current production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata is a moving and heart-wrenching view of tragic romantic love in all its variations. Under the taut and astute direction of Francesca Zambello, this beloved classic of the operatic repertoire is presented with a very tight focus on the primary characters and the ravishingly beautiful music by Verdi.

The cast of La traviata. Photo by Scott Suchman.

The libretto by Francesco Maria Piave involves a pivotal choice that the main character, Violetta Valery (Soprano Venera Gimadieva) must make after being pressured by the domineering Georgio Germont (Baritone Lucas Meachem). The drama of the central situation underlines the often-futile choices that a woman would be forced to make in a male-dominated society when torn between a respectable reputation and a romantic relationship that could be torn asunder by the scandal and dishonor of no economic security. Director Zambello subtly and appropriately underscores empathy for the status of women during the late 1800’s.

Verdi excels in powerful music that places extreme vocal demands on singers as the arias encapsulate sustained lengthy passages. Composer Verdi often starts his musical passages softly only to erupt into fiery, intense musical interludes. Conductor Renato Palumbo sensitively conducted the Washington National Opera Orchestra. The music underscored the libretto with delicacy and emphasis when appropriate.

Soprano Venera Gimadieva sings with stunning clarity and a purity of tone that envelops the words with suppleness. Ms. Gimadieva possesses a superb acting ability as shown by her despair and pain in her consumption scenes and her romantic scenes with her lover, Alfredo (Tenor Joshua Guerrero).

Violetta’s aria “Amami, Alfredo, amami quant’io t’amo”/”Love me , Alfredo, love me as I love you” was beautifully sung as was the aria “Addio , del passato bei sogni ridenti/”Farewell, lovely, happy dreams of the past.” Ms. Gimadieva’s voice glided fluidly with each vocal transition of her glorious soprano tones.

Tenor Joseph Guerrero as Alfredo was appropriately emotional with a controlled intensity. Mr. Guerrero fit into the ensemble with an unerring sense of ease. Guerrero sang with beautiful tone and earnest concern to Violetta in the aria “Un, di, felice, eterea”/”One Day, happy and ethereal.” A refreshing aspect of Guerrero’s performance was the comfortable physical ease of his interaction with the members of the cast.

Venera Gimadieva, Joshua Guerrero, and the cast of La traviata. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, was well-played by Baritone Lucas Meachem. Mr. Meachem’s character represented a stern morality which was decidedly the flip side of the decadence of the parties and gambling portrayed in the opera. Meachem played the character with an appropriate air of bourgeois morality. Meachem’s aria begging Violetta to give up Alfredo was masterful: “Pura siccome un angelo, Iddio mi die una figlia”/”Pure as an Angel, God gave me a Daughter.”

Baritone Michael Hewitt as Baron Douphol was wonderful in his role and Soprano Alexandria Shiner shone as the maid, Annina. The Washington National Opera Chorus and the Washington National Opera Dancers lent superior support.

Tony-Award Winning Costume Designer Jess Goldstein designed costumes that were absolutely exquisite from the browns, golds, and ambers of the opening party scenes to the opulent red colors of the second act party scene. Mark McCullough’s lighting design was evocative and subtle. Parker Esse’s choreography was stellar.

La traviata is a very challenging opera in that the director must sustain the drama of the despairing main character. An opera that tackles the issue of consumption is very challenging and Director Zambello does a superior job of keeping all the elements of the opera together.

Do not miss this superb production of La traviata.

Running Time: Two Hours and 30 minutes, with a 25-minute intermission.

La traviata runs through October 21, 2018, at The Kennedy Center – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call 202-467-4600, or purchase them online.

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.

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