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 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.
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.