The reviews are in for “La Traviata”

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Bruno Ribeiro as Alfredo Germont and Elizabeth Futral as Violetta Valery, a courtesan in the Minnesota Opera production of La traviata

Photo by Michal Daniel

Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” runs through March 13. Planning on going? Check out the following reviews. Already been? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

From Larry Fuchsberg at Star Tribune:

There are many ways to treat Verdi’s 1853 “La Traviata,” deservedly among the most popular of operas. Some are more fashionable than others. The Minnesota Opera’s judicious, traditionalist revival, which opened Saturday in St. Paul, will never attract the kind of attention showered on the studied audacity of high-concept updatings in Salzburg or New York. Yet the company’s new tweaking of its sturdy 2003 staging, smashingly sung, captures more of the work’s emotional depth and power than most trendier productions could hope to do.

…The complex, wrenching scene between Violetta and Germont …is the heart of “Traviata” and one of the finest things in opera. Elizabeth Futral and Stephen Powell play it magnificently, alive to every flicker of feeling: indignation, fear, shame, sympathy, grief, resignation. Futral, who moves as expressively as she sings, is attuned to both the vulnerability and the steeliness of her character; her crystalline soprano encompasses both the brilliant coloratura of Act 1 and the more lyrical writing of the later, darker scenes.

From Rob Hubbard at Pioneer Press:

…The Minnesota Opera’s current production is all about making the emotions as genuine as possible. From heart-on-their-sleeves characterizations to voices wringing every ounce of joy and sadness from Verdi’s music to a dignified design scheme that always augments the action, it’s an excellent example of grand opera brought down to human scale. Yet it never minimizes its messages about love, propriety and the pursuit of happiness.

Being among the most popular of operas, it’s no surprise that the Minnesota Opera is stuffing its schedule with eight performances in nine days, two pairs of lovers alternating in the leads. Whichever cast you catch, you’ll encounter the same beautiful scenery, clever choreography and powerful portrayal from Stephen Powell as Giorgio Germont. As the father who asks the dying heroine to sacrifice her dreams of love for his family’s sake, Powell uses his versatile voice and strong acting skills to create a fascinating blend of resolve, compassion and guilt.

Those attending Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday will have the good fortune to experience the tour de force performance of Elizabeth Futral as Violetta. It’s a role for which Verdi asks a soprano to adopt three very different singing styles: Flighty coloratura in the first act, tortured lyric lines in the second, and dark mezzo material as death approaches. Futral executes each exquisitely while offering a convincing portrayal of a conflicted, consummate party gal who gives it up for love and encounters little but loss.

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Bruno Ribeiro as Alfredo Germont and Elizabeth Futral as Violetta Valery, a courtesan in the Minnesota Opera production of La traviata

Photo by Michal Daniel

From Brad Richason at Examiner.com:

Great opera is predicated upon a handful of common elements which, while easy to define, are notoriously difficult to master. First and foremost is an emotionally evocative narrative capable of sustaining intoxicatingly heighted passions. Inducing such a sublime condition requires a captivating score matched against a riveting cast capable of fusing libretto with music, amplifying both to an exalted degree. While few productions fully achieve such an eminent goal, the Minnesota Opera’s stunning new production of La traviata, now running at the Ordway Center, proves a thrilling exception. Transcending the graceful beauty of Giuseppe Verdi’s score with mesmerizing performances and a richly imaginative design, La traviata exemplifies great opera.

…Played with tactful precision by the Minnesota Opera Orchestra as conducted by Michael Christie, the spellbinding power of Giuseppe Verdi’s eloquent score is intimately realized. Blending melodic propulsion with Francesco Maria Piave’s vibrant Italian libretto, the music ranges from suggestively sparse ruminations to baroque explosions of choral exaltation. The interplay between spiritual longing and material reality forms the primary tension that drives the musical progression and informs the captivating performances.

…Productions of revered works all too often exchange daring innovation for the safety of imitation, following prescribed patterns of presentation rather than taking artistic risks. The Minnesota Opera’s La traviata is the absolute antithesis of such uninspired productions. Gifted with extraordinary performances and a visionary creative team, La traviata achieves heartbreaking pathos, reasserting the enthralling greatness of Verdi’s masterpiece.

From Jay Gabler at TC Daily Planet:

Like many operas, La Traviata takes a fairly simple plot and stretches it out over three hours, so you’re not going to be hanging on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens: success is all about the details and the texture, and this production scores on almost all fronts. From score to floor, this is the best Minnesota Opera production I’ve seen to date.

Futral and Ribeiro are well-matched, both as singers and as actors. They have genuine chemistry together and, though on Saturday they started out a little stiff–especially Futral–by Act II they’d swung into their roles with gusto, wearing Verdi’s classic melodies like gloves. From a dramatic standpoint, Powell has a thankless role, but his baritone is so rich and supple that you could sit there and listen to him lecture Violetta all night. Crucially, all are capable of the wide dynamic swings Verdi demands, from gentle pleas to throaty cries.

“No orchestra can really have fun playing Verdi’s La Traviata,” avers one anonymous blogger, but the band playing this production under the baton of Michael Christie sure sound like they’re proving that assertion wrong. From the woodwind solos to the brass blasts, this is a scintillating performance that reminds you what Verdi learned from Mozart about drama, pacing, and orchestral color.

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