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Margo Kline: Opera Santa Barbara Scores with ‘La Traviata’

Everything about the production — from the singing to the staging — proves flawless

Opera Santa Barbara staged a touching La Traviata at The Granada on Friday and Sunday, illustrating why the Giuseppe Verdi classic remains a favorite of opera lovers.

The work originated with the 1853 novel La Dame Aux Camellias by Alexandre Dumas, fils, the tale of a doomed courtesan and her equally doomed love affair with a young man from a bourgeois family. This version is a new one for Opera Santa Barbara, and featured fine production values, singers who embodied the characters’ pathos and an orchestra conducted by the ebullient Valery Ryvkin.

Violetta Valery, the courtesan, was sung by soprano Rebecca Davis, who has starred in productions with the San Francisco and San Jose operas. She soared through the familiar arias, including the giddy “Sempre libera” and the last-act’s sorrowful “Adio del passato.” Appealing young tenor Ryan MacPherson portrayed Alfredo Germont, exhibiting suitable passion and jealousy. Alfredo’s father, Georgio Germont, was sung by baritone Malcolm MacKenzie, who recently performed at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

La Traviata’s drama reaches a peak when the elder Germont confronts Violetta and begs her to cease her love affair with his son, which could compromise his daughter’s engagement. Violetta is true to her own set of values and agrees, guaranteeing the hapless Alfredo a broken heart. These young singers possess the vocal gifts and training to guarantee them bright futures in opera.

The staging also was exemplary, with honors going to director Jose Maria Condemi and costume designer Elizabeth Poindexter, among the production staff. The handsome scenic design was credited to Eric Flatmo.

Credit also should go to Gary McKenzie, a pillar of the State Street Ballet who choreographed the dances. Opera Santa Barbara joined with Opera San Jose to produce this La Traviata.

Of course, it all hinges on Verdi’s music, beautifully played by the orchestra in the pit and sung by the leads and the chorus, led by chorus master Brent Wilson. The setting is Paris at the time the Eiffel Tower was built, which was contemporary to Verdi’s own life.

La Traviata translates to “The Fallen Woman,” and according to the program notes, the composer in real life had a long affair with a similar woman, shocking his contemporaries.

This rich production was well-suited to The Granada, which appeared to be completely sold out at the Sunday matinee. The enthusiastic audience gave the participants a standing ovation at the end.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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