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This Traviata Sounds Better Than it Looks

Academy of Vocal Arts
05/06/2008 -  and May 8, 10, 13, 15 and 17
Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata
Jan Cornelius (Violetta Valery), Ariya Sawadivong (Flora), Nina Yoshida Nelsen (Annina), Michael Fabiano (Alfredo Germont), Octavio Moreno (Giorgio Germont), Taylor Stayton (Gastone), Stephen LaBrie (Barone Douphol), Christopher Bolduc (Marchese d'Obigny)
Christofer Macatsoris (conductor), Peter Harrison (scenic designer), Val J. Starr (costume designer), Allen G. Doak, Jr. (lighting designer), Dorothy Danner (director)

Impressive singing and strong conducting put a vivid stamp on the Academy of Vocal Arts' production of La Traviata. A few wrong-headed directorial choices and cramped sets diminish the success of the production that rounds out the current AVA season in the Helen Corning Warden Theater.

Jan Cornelius rises to the daunting challenges Violetta Valéry places before a soprano. Cornelius dominates the stage with her forthright and touching portrayal. Her gleaming soprano sometimes lacks focus and clarity in its lower range but opens up powerfully in the middle range and dominates the high climaxes. Cornelius deepens her portrayal as the opera progresses. In the final act, she finds an array of touching colors in her expressive singing.
Joining the soprano are tenor Michael Fabiano (Alfredo) and baritone Octavio Moreno (Germont). Exploiting his ringing tenor and eager stage manner, Fabiano makes an ardent young lover. The tenor who recently made his debut at La Scala as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, phrases Alfredo's second-act aria suavely and caps the cabaletta with a firm high C. In the gambling scene, Fabiano boldly denounces Violetta. He proves a sensitive partner for the soprano in their scenes together.
Moreno fashions an impressive Germont. His handsome lyric baritone and grave appearance lend weight to the long scene in which Alfredo's father confronts Violetta. Moreno's voice flows smoothly through Germont's aria.
Christofer Macatsoris opens up many of the traditional cuts. Emphasizing the dark colors in the score, he shapes sensitive accompaniments for the singers and propels the big ensembles to impressive climaxes. Responding to the conductor's firm but pliant hand, the musicians provide disciplined playing that adds color to the performance.

This Traviata sounds better than it looks. Peter Harrison faces the daunting challenge of fashioning expansive sets for AVA small stage. His dark settings fail to deliver a suitable visual frame for the opera. Stage director Dorothy Danner indulges in some unnecessary visual touches. During the first act prelude, Violetta lies on the floor covered with a shroud. The courtesan's lovers embrace her and offer jewels and cash before the party scene begins.
Danner makes Alfredo sing “Dei miei bollenti spiriti” to Violetta as she embraces him even though the text expresses his love for “her” rather than “you.” Despite the lapses, Danner stages the intimate confrontations with a fine sense for the personal interaction of the characters. Inevitably on the small stage of the Helen Corning Warden Theater, the party scenes look a bit muddled.

Robert Baxter



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