Sunday, October 25, 2009

'La Traviata': Verdi's Most Intimate Opera?




[to watch the video accompanying this track see: Sights and Sounds of 'La Traviata' ]


Ken and I went to the opera last night. The opera being performed was an opera by Verdi, "La Traviata."  "La Traviata" was an opera that I have always wanted to see. Well, what can I say:  this opera was truly mesmerizing!  It was so easy to just get to lost in the music as this opera's story began its unfolding. This was only the second time I've had tears in my eyes at the end of an opera. Then again, I haven't seen that many operas to date -- maybe a dozen all total. The other opera which brought tears to my eyes was 'Madame Butterfly', and I was sobbing uncontrollably by the end of that one. Madame Butterfly has been, by far, my favorite opera --that I've had the privilege to attend, anyway ... would love to see La Boheme. Verdi's 'La Traviata' now takes second place in my heart. What they say is true, I think: 'La Traviata' is by far Verdi's most intimate opera.

I am still a novice when it comes to all of the terminology, voicings, etc., but I'm slowly learning. I never thought of myself as being one who would enjoy the opera. Ken and I had tried the ballet, the symphony, etc. and they were okay ... entertaining ... even inspiring at times ... but it wasn't until we attended the opera that I felt as if I had found my home. I only had to attend one opera, before I was hopelessly hooked. I can't quite explain it but for me opera has the power to move the soul ... I guess, maybe you just have to experience opera, firsthand, in order to understand?

Last night's performance of 'La Traviata' was spectacular -- but then again, I'm no expert! In my humble opinion, the roles were superbly cast and performed. Eglise Guitierrez, as Violetta, did an amazing job of conveying the gambit of emotions that her character had to convey. I think Verdi himself -- who called the premiere of his beloved opera a disaster, due to his dissatisfaction with the performance given by Violetta ... Verdi felt that "the look, the voice, the personality of Violetta was crucial to opera's success."-- would have been pleased with the performance given by Eglise Gutierrez last night. Guitierrez had the voice of an angel. Violetta's character never left the stage for the entire performance -- and the second act was 64 minutes long (?!).

Dimitri Pittas, as Alfredo was impressive as well, and his voice paired quite nicely with Violetta's. But the voice that caught my attention last night was the Baritone, playing the role of Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont. This role was performed by Weston Hurt, and his voice was amazing ... mesmerizing. When Hurt sang, you felt as if you were being transported to another place and time ... as if the story was real and you had traveled back in time as witness to a sacred event. I wasn't alone in this feeling, I guess, because when the performers came out for the curtain call, at the end of the performance, the crowd gave Hurt almost as big a round of applause as the lead characters of Alfredo and Violetta. Violetta received a standing ovation, and rightly so.







Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas [see more images at:  http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/8177a/]


My only reservation with the whole evening was that the acoustics in the McCaw Hall paled significantly by comparison to what I have experienced at Fort Worth,Texas's Bass Performance Hall . The grandeur of Bass Hall is unequaled as well. It harkens back to a time, long since past, and not easily matched. I didn't realize just how magnificent Bass Performance Hall was, until I had something tangible to compare it with. I guess, I owe the architects, engineers, and visionaries who made Bass Hall a reality a huge debt of gratitude. If you live in Texas, you owe it to yourself to see some event performed at Bass Performance Hall. It is truly a remarkable performance venue. Of course, my recommendation for which type of performance to attend would have to be: opera.  : )


'Anuna', World Style Music, Founded in 1987 in Ireland, By Michael Michael McGlyn
(choir numbers up to 180 members)


My mother said that she and my father recently saw a group named "Anuna"   [ see also YouTube video clip and profile http://www.youtube.com/user/brezairola#p/u]  perform at Bass Performance Hall.  She said that the group performed a song a cappella, 'Csi Do Mhaimeo L.', by only candlelight, with singers positioned throughout the hall in order to play off of the hall's supberb acoustics.  No microphones were needed or used.  My mother said it was "truly amazing! Just beautiful!"  Apparently, the group's lead said there were few performance halls in the world where they were able to do just such a performance and that Bass Performance Hall was ONE of them.


I've rambled on long enough. Below is a summary of the story-line for 'La Traviata'. I'll add other relevant and interesting opera links when I can.   For now check out the Seattle Opera's blog at: http://seattleopera.blogspot.com/.   Enjoy!


Other useful opera links:

Seattle Opera, official site for 'La Traviata' -  http://www.seattleopera.org/tickets/2009-2010/traviata/sights_sounds.aspx

About Fort Worth Opera - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Worth_Opera

Fort Worth Opera Official Site - http://www.fwopera.org/

[Thanks to Diane R., I now have a complete list of operas performed by the Fort Worth Opera company -- since 1946 ... fun to see : ).  Fort Worth Opera company is one of the oldest opera companies in the country!  I am glad to see that my recollection (memory) of the operas that I have had the privilege to attend is surprisingly accurate.  Thanks Diane!  Glad to hear that the company is doing well despite the economy.  We'll be sure to stop by when we are in town again ... maybe this upcoming festival season?  God Bless!]

Top 10 Most Famous Operas -  http://www.vaughns-1-pagers.com/music/top-operas.htm

Long list of noteworthy operas spanning from 1600's to  present time - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_important_operas

Opera by language and artist, along with plot summaries - http://www.musicwithease.com/opera-02.html



Plot Summary for 'La Traviata', By Giuseppe Verdi
 Act I


Violetta's house in Paris, c. 1850

Violetta, a courtesan under the protection of Baron Douphol, is entertaining guests, among them, Alfredo Germont, who has been in love with her for some time. Although she is very ill, Violetta insists upon not changing her lifestyle (she has consumption). As she leads her guests off to dance, she is seized by a coughing fit and withdraws. Alfredo joins her and professes his love. Violetta discourages his affection, but gives him a camellia flower, telling him to return when it has faded. After the party has ended, Violetta wonders if Alfredo could be her true love. She soon shrugs off such sentimentality, believing that abandoning herself to the hollow pleasures of her life is her only option. She questions this, however, when Alfredo is heard singing beneath her balcony.



Act II, Scene I


A country house near Paris, three months later

Violetta and Alfredo are now living together, and Violetta's health has greatly improved. Finances are strained for Violetta, however, and she is in the process -- unbeknownst to Alfredo -- of selling off her possessions in order to settle her debts. When Alfredo learns of this, he leaves for Paris to raise the money himself. In Alfredo's absence, Violetta receives and unexpected visit from Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont. Giorgio asks that Violetta leave his son so as to avoid the scandal of his son living with a woman of her lowly stature. He does this because the continued union of his son, with Violetta, jeopardizes the happiness and marriage of Alfredo's sister -- who Violetta has never even met -- to a respected nobleman. Violetta tells Giorgio that it will kill her, but she finally agrees to his request. When Giorgio leaves, Violetta writes a letter to Alfredo informing him that she has decided to return to her old life and has returned to Paris -- instead of telling him the truth behind her actions.

Alfredo is devastated upon reading Violetta's letter. He finds an invitation to a party in Paris that he knows that Violetta will likely attend and decides to confront her there.



Act II, Scene 2


Flora's house, party in Paris, the same evening

A party is in progress. Alfredo appears alone, and then Violetta enters escorted by the Baron Douphol. The two men play cards, in an attempt to better the other, and Alfredo wins. Violetta sees Alfredo alone and begs him to avoid a duel with the Baron -- as she fears for his life. In response, to Alfredo's accusations against the Baron and herself, Violetta falsely declares that she loves the Baron. In a fury, Alfredo summons all of the party guests to witness the repayment of Violetta's debts, with the money that he won at cards that very evening. He flings the money wildly at Violetta and curses her. The Baron then challenges Alfredo to a duel. Giorgio Germont (Alfredo's father) arrives just in time to witness his son's outburst and hear his son curse Violetta. Giorgio reproaches his son.



Act III


Violetta's bedroom, a few months later

The doctor tells Violetta's lady in waiting that her mistress is dying. Violetta reads a letter from Giorgio Germont informing her that Alfredo has fled the country, after dueling the Baron, and gone abroad. Giorgio tells Violetta that he has confessed the truth behind Violetta's actions to Alfredo and will return shortly with Alfredo by his side, as Alfredo having learned of the truth is eager to beg Violetta's forgiveness. The lovers are finally reunited, and Giorgio Germont arrives to give his blessing to their union. But, Giorgio is too late, and Violetta dies in Alfredo's arms.

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Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts. I'll read them and post them soon! God Bless! M