La Traviata

I couldn’t help getting tickets for La Traviata at the Lyric. Instead of pulling Jeff along (though he happily obliges most of the time), I thought to poll my fellow Chicago friends on FB to see if anyone would be willing to come along. Happily, two trapeze friends were! And, after we had purchased the tickets, I found out that another trapeze friend had also gotten tickets for the same evening.

So, on a bitterly cold Monday evening (it was so frigid that the weather stations, instead of displaying cute little icons that showed “cloudy” or “sunny”, just spelt out “cold”), we ditched our usual chalk-covered garb and grabbed a quick bite at French Market before shivering our way to the opera house.

New production by Arin Arbus. I quite like the set, even though the designer seemed somewhat torn between keeping it period or contemporary. In particular, I loved the sumptuous party set at Flora’s house in Act 2, with the deep red walls offset by colorful balloons doubling as light fixtures. Wasn’t too crazy about the traditional costumes complete with bustles and gilded angel-wings though.

The singing was first rate. Although after the first intermission it was announced that Joseph Calleja was not feeling well – but would still go on, he did a phenomenal job. His burnished tone easily rose above the chorus and reached clearly to our seats all the way in the back main floor. He was ardent, impassioned, disconsolate, furious, and desolate. Very intense performance.

I thought Marina took a bit to warm up. In the brindisi, she sounded a little underpowered, but she was got into her element soon enough by “E Strano” and “Sempre Libre.” I especially liked how her “Sempre Libre” sounded desperate, like a cynical woman trying to convince herself that there is no such thing as “love”. Her coloratura was precise and thrilling. I still love Anna Netrebko’s stirring and impassioned performance in the 2005 Salzburg Traviata, but while the latter’s creamy voice is lovely, her ornamentation is often somewhat careless.

Quinn Kelsey proved a robust Germont. Although his character could have been more sympathetic (hello, trying to bribe Violetta with money – after she’d already agreed to his requests?), his “Di Provenza il Mar” was touching.

The one slight annoyance was how bronchial the audience was. The overture had barely begun when the cacophony of coughs and blowing of noses started, almost drowning out the strings. Come on, Violetta is the one dying of consumption on stage!

Overall, we all had a lovely time. One hit aria after another, by wonderful singers – what’s there to dislike? Traviata’s one of K’s favorite operas (her others are by Gilbert and Sullivan), and she said she was always a puddle by the last scene. M had such a great time that she’s now looking for more shows to attend. 🙂

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