OPERA NEWS - La Traviata
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In Review > North America

La Traviata

Opera Colorado

In Review Colorado Traviata lg 219
Cecilia Violetta López, Opera Colorado’s Violetta Valéry
© Matthew Staver

CECILIA VIOLETTA LÓPEZ owns the role of Verdi’s Violetta Valéry; on November 3, in Denver’s cavernous Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the Mexican–American soprano projected all the glamour, vulnerability, strength and weakness of this endlessly captivating character. Nothing was lacking in her performance. Visually striking in a knockout, off-the-shoulder red gown, López immediately became the focus of the production during the Prelude, as she gazed out the window. She was also entrancing vocally, soaring over every musical hurdle with no seeming effort, nailing and sustaining the opening act’s thrilling final high E-flat. Apart from some awkward moments when director Alison Moritz placed López far upstage in the hall’s dead spot, the soprano reached every corner of the Ellie, even during the muted moments of “Addio del passato.” 

The two other sides of Traviata’s dramatic triangle did not match the soprano’s intensity and dramatic polish. Tenor Eric Barry managed to bring some sympathy to Alfredo, likeable in his unflinching initial passion, boiling with resentment in Act II’s card scene. But his big, lumbering figure all but dwarfed his Violetta. Though his intonation was secure, Barry was unable to equal López’s impressive projection and three-dimensional acting.

The biggest disappointment was Malcolm MacKenzie’s disconnected portrayal of Germont père. Though possessing a focused, bigger-than-life baritone, MacKenzie gave precious little attention to engaging with his son or, more frustratingly, with Violetta. Their crucial dialogue in Act II proved sadly one-sided. López showed anger, confusion and finally sadness and resignation, while her counterpart barely revealed anything more than his impressive vocal chops. What should have simmered with urgency simply fell flat. So did the ensuing father–son exchange. The baritone failed to discover any sensitive phrasing or vocal coloring in “Di Provenza,” too often throwing his head back and letting loose, as if to impress with his singing at the expense of his characterization. 

Moritz injected some effective touches in the staging but made a few poor directorial choices. Early on in Violetta’s gigantic Act I scena, López forlornly snuffed out some burning candles during “Ah! fors’è lui,” but she lit them anew as she found hope once again in “Sempre libera.” This nice touch was quickly erased when Moritz returned Alfredo to the stage for his normally offstage cries of “Di quell’ amor,” ending the act with a passionate embrace of his beloved, thus robbing Violetta of a momentary, life-affirming declaration of independence. The director generally stayed out of harm’s way, ably handling Opera Colorado’s well-populated chorus (impeccably prepared by Sahar Nouri). Opera Colorado’s production had a luxurious look, thanks to the elegant sets borrowed from Utah Symphony & Opera (originally designed by Peter Dean Beck for Florida Grand Opera) and the sumptuous costumes by Susan Memmott Allred (also courtesy of the Utah company). Lucas Krech provided effective lighting, perhaps occasionally overusing follow-spots on his principals. As we’ve come to expect, company music director Ari Pelto offered impeccably supportive accompaniment, leading an excellent pit orchestra that never overwhelmed the singers. —Marc Shulgold

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