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Gerald Carpenter: Opera Santa Barbara to Stage Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’

Performances will be held Friday and Sunday in The Granada

Marie Duplessis, the original of
Marie Duplessis, the original of “Marguerite Gautier” and “Violetta Valéry,” in a watercolor by Camille Roqueplan.

Opera Santa Barbara will offer two performances of its new production of La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 4, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6, in The Granada, 1214 State St.

Directed by OSB’s Artistic Director Jose Maria Condemi, La Traviata stars Rebecca Davis, Ryan MacPherson and Malcolm MacKenzie. Maestro Valéry Ryvkin will perform his usual exemplary service at the helm of the Opera Santa Barbara Orchestra.

If the plot of this quintessentially romantic melodrama is not familiar to everyone, it certainly ought to be. Apart from the Verdi opera, which came out less than a year after the novel and play and has been filmed at least six times, Alexandre Dumas, fils’ novel/play, La Dame aux Camélias, has been the basis of at least 20 motion pictures, starting with a silent Danish film, Kameliadamen, in 1907, at least three ballets and innumerable stage productions (including 16 versions opening on Broadway alone).

Those who keep track of such things aver that La Traviata is one of the 10 most popular operas in the repertoire. It is third on Opera America’s list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America, with only Madama Butterfly and La Bohème ahead of it.

Despite the popularity of the name in America, there is no character named “Camille” in the story. In the novel and play by Dumas, she is known as “Marguerite Gautier,” in the Verdi opera she is called “Violetta Valéry,” but in real life, insofar as she had one, she was called Marie Duplessis, and she was the author’s mistress — or, more accurately, Dumas, fils, was one of her lovers.

In her short life, she managed to attract the affectionate attention of a number of eminent men and to keep, for a while, a brilliant salon. She died of tuberculosis at age 23 on Feb. 3, 1847. Two of her prominent lovers were at her bedside when she died, but Dumas wasn’t one of them. Perhaps he was at home, working on his novel.

Tickets to La Traviata are $28 to $188, with considerable range in between, and are available from The Granada box office at 1216 State St., or 805.899.2222 or 805.899.3000. Click here to order online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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