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Knock-Out voices, full orchestra deliver passionate tale of doomed love as Pacific Symphony’s next semi-staged concert-opera brings to life Verdi’s “La Traviata”
January 23, 2014
Led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, Pacific Symphony’s vocal initiative, “Symphonic Voices,” continues with Giuseppe Verdi’s thrilling but tragic tale about a dying courtesan willing to give up everything for love in “La Traviata.” Featuring the composer’s exquisite music, presented in a uniquely staged production over three nights, the orchestra is joined by a cast of world-class opera stars; including soprano Elizabeth Caballero as Violetta Valéry and tenor Rolando Sanz as Alfredo Germont. Plus, the Pacific Chorale and members of the California State University Fullerton (CSUF) University Singers help fill the concert hall with exhilarating voices as Verdi’s dramatic tale unfolds. While the selection of “La Traviata” as this year’s opera is a tip of the hat to Verdi’s bicentennial celebration, it is also a work that St.Clair is intimately familiar with—having conducted it while general music director of the Komische Oper Berlin.
This semi-staged production includes acting, staging, video elements, costumes and props. St.Clair and the orchestra deliver this newly inspired performance on Thursday, Feb. 20; Saturday, Feb. 22; and Tuesday Feb. 25, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; a preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$109; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“We continue our ‘vocal initiative’ by celebrating the anniversary of Verdi with his masterful opera, ‘La Traviata,’” says Maestro St.Clair. “It is one of the all-time favorites on stages around the world.”
Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the story of love and sacrifice begins with a festive supper party in a Parisian salon…but romance ends in remorse as the characters’ own passions bring them to an unfortunate end. Stage director A. Scott Parry—hailed by Opera News as “marvelous,” “lively” and “spot-on”—returns after a successful run with the Symphony’s presentation of “La Bohème” in 2012. Parry’s stage productions have spanned an enormous range of repertoire, from “West Side Story” to “Madama Butterfly” and “La Cage aux Folles.” And, coincidentally, “La Traviata” stars two Cuban-American opera stars at the top of their game with careers dense with acclaimed performances. Neither is new to their upcoming roles—nor to each other.
“Soprano Elizabeth Caballero delivered a marvelous Violetta…” said Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel after a performance that opened the season for the Florentine Opera. “She was animated, communicative and believable, singing with a big, facile, focused sound while making the vocal demands of the role seem easy and natural.”
In the same review of the performance that included her fellow cast member, the Journal Sentinal wrote: “Rolando Sanz was a warm, tender Alfredo… He brought musical depth to the role.”
In addition to Caballero and Sanz, the stellar cast includes baritone Mark Delavan—of whom the San Francisco Examiner has said ‘…is both majestic and heartbreakingly human. His acting, diction and warm, broad voice impress throughout…”—as Giorgio Germont; mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck as Flora Bervoix; soprano Diana Tash as Annina; tenor John Matthew Myers as Gastone; bass-baritone Jamie Offenbach as Baron Douphol; bass-baritone Andrew Gray as Marquis d’Obigny; bass-baritone Michael Gallup as Doctor Grenvil; tenor Kevin Gino as Giuseppe/Servant; bass Andrei Bratkovsky as Commissioner/Servant; and Christine Gerena and Steve Rosa as the Matador Dancers; Pacific Chorale (Artistic Director John Alexander) and members of the CSUF University Singers (Director Robert M. Istad). Lighting design is by Barry Steele and costumes are by Katie Wilson.
In a nutshell: The story begins around the year 1850, as a brilliant supper party is taking place in Violetta Valéry’s luxurious Paris salon. It is here that the beautiful but frail hostess meets the privileged Alfredo Germont—and out of love for him abandons her rollicking life of pleasure. They go on to live an idyllic existence in the country—until Alfredo’s father shows up and demands that Violetta renounce Alfredo. Torn, Violetta decides to sacrifice the relationship and run away—leaving a note for Alfredo. She later turns up at a ball on the arm of an old admirer, Baron Douphol, which infuriates Alfredo. The two men play cards; Alfredo winning every hand. Unable to persuade Violetta to leave with him, Alfredo insults her and is challenged by the Baron. Violetta becomes ill, and all her friends desert her, leaving her virtually penniless. Alfredo at last returns. His father has told him of Violetta’s noble renunciation, and urged him to seek her forgiveness. Overjoyed at the sight of him, Violetta attempts to rise from her sick bed. But as Germont and the doctor enter—well, you have to attend to find out how it ends!
“Symphonic Voices,” the initiative to return opera back to Orange County after the demise of Opera Pacific, has been drawing on the expertise of St.Clair since its inception—as it was his career in opera that set the stage for the ambitious venture. During his tenure at the Komische Oper Berlin, St.Clair led acclaimed productions not only of “La Traviata,” but also the world premiere of Christian Jost’s “Hamle” as well as the heralded production of “Lear” by Aribert Reimann, one of Germany’s most distinguished composers. And as the former general music director and chief conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle in Weimar, Germany, he led Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” to great critical acclaim.
“Symphonic Voices” began with the highly successful debut in 2012 of Puccini’s “La Bohème,” followed in 2013 with Puccini’s “Tosca,” and now Verdi’s grand “La Traviata.” The initiative continues in 2015 with Bizet’s “Carmen,” a riveting tale of love and lust chock full of seductive and irresistible rhythms.
Pacific Symphony’s classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation with additional support from American Airlines, KUSC and PBS SoCal.
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