The Dallas Opera’s production of one of the world’s most popular operas Verdi’s “La traviata” has audiences shouting “Bravo! Brava!” A huge part of this excitement is due to Greek Soprano Myrtò Papatanasiu in her American debut in the lead role of Violetta and American Tenor James Valenti as her lover Alfredo. Their arias and duets fill the Winspear Opera House with beautiful phrasing and lyrical emotion. The storyline is simple and tragic. A handsome young heir falls in love with a Paris courtesan dying from consumption. His father persuades her to leave him and the young man is angry and heartbroken not realizing that she is still in love with him. He and his father return to find her on her deathbed. They hold each and say good-bye while she dies in his arms.
In the opening scene Papatanasiu’s frail beauty is juxtaposed against the opulent set with a clock on the mantel and a gravestone in the corner foreshadowing her tragic ending. Her grace, beauty and slender figure adorned in an exquisite period costume creates the allure of a desired 19th-century Paris courtesan. Her expressive voice and bel canto technique is breathtakingly beautiful.
Papatanasiu is quite often compared to the Greek opera legend Maria Callas. In 1957 Callas performed in the Dallas Opera’s inaugural concert. TDO’s Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year Award is in her honor and many believe Papatanasiu will be nominated for this year’s award.
The casting in "La traviata" is inspired. With the pairing of Papatanasiu and the tall handsome James Valenti there is no need to make a visual stretch to imagine a beautiful young couple falling in love. DFW operagoers are very familiar with Valenti who was the recipient of the Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year Award for his role as Rodolfo in “La bohème.” He portrayed the scoundrel Duke in last season’s critically acclaimed "Rigoletto." This year in “La traviata” his tender portrayal as Violetta’s naïve lover is memorable. His transformation into an angry rejected lover and finally the remorseful man holding his dying love in his arms reinforces Valenti’s talent not only as an accomplished vocalist, but also as an actor.
In his Dallas Opera debut famed French baritone Laurent Naouri as Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont, persuades Violetta to leave his son. Naouri allows his character subtle restraint when he looks upon Violetta as a courtesan destroying his family and not a frail dying woman deeply in love. Naouri’s performance is far more compelling and poignant because of his nuanced acting and stunningly beautiful warm voice and phrasing. His love of his family displays some humanity underneath his desperation. Although touched by the love Violetta has for his son, he still asks her to sacrifice her happiness for the greater good of his family.
Baritone Timothy Mix portrays a virile Baron Douphol competing for Violetta. American Mezzo-Soprano Amanda Crider makes her Dallas Opera Debut as Violetta’s friend, Flora Bervoix. Both Mix and Crider stand out during Flora's exciting party scene that is rich in color, music, and dance. When Alfredo arrives the party overflows with drama.
The Dallas Opera’s Tragic Obsessions Season is a triumph of artistic excellence, innovation and classic opera at its finest. Maestro Marco Guidarini skillfully conducts “La traviata” returning to Dallas after almost a decade. The orchestra and chorus are exquisite along with the lush set and costumes. The delightful choreography by Rosa Mercedes, a native of Barcelona, Spain enriches the group scenes. During the Flora party scene in Paris, the female Spanish performer with castanets dancing on the table is wonderful and sensual. This production is one of the best in years. Verdi’s 1853 masterpiece “La traviata” played to an enthusiastic full house during opening night at the Winspear.
The Dallas Opera
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora Street, Suite 500
Dallas, Texas 75201
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 21, 2012 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 27, 2012 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 29, 2012 2:00 p.m.
The Joy and Ronald Mankoff Pre-Opera Talks for "La traviata" will be given by Hank Hammett one hour before each performance in Hamon Hall at the Winspear Opera House.