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A Full-Blooded Rendition

'La Traviata' from Southern California
reviewed by SUSAN HAMPTON


On 21 October 2007, The California Center for the Performing Arts in Escondido presented Teatro Lirico D'Europa's production of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata. Teatro Lirico, the only company currently touring the United States with grand opera, performs in theatres from Maine to California and Oregon to Florida. Its autumn and winter tours feature popular operas like Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly, La Bohème and Tosca, Gioacchino Rossini's The Barber of Seville and operettas like Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow. Escondido was the second stop on this year's autumn tour.

La Traviata is loosely based on the life of famous nineteenth century courtesan, Marie Duplessis, who died of tuberculosis at age 23. The younger Alexandre Dumas actually had an affair with her which he wrote about in his novel, La Dame aux Camélias. When it was adapted for the Paris stage and presented in 1852, its success helped to establish his career. Librettist Francesco Maria Piave used that same work as the basis for the text of the opera which was first heard at La Fenice in Venice on 6 March 1853. Although the audience at the première found the subject matter somewhat shocking, the piece was soon played throughout Europe and was seen in both London and New York three years later.

Madeline Bender as Violetta in 'La Traviata'
Madeline Bender as Violetta in 'La Traviata'

The Sunday afternoon performance in California was conducted by Martin Mázik, principal conductor of the National opera of Slovakia in Bratislava. He led Teatro Lirico's Orchestra in a rhythmically astute, full-blooded rendition of this expansive romantic score that brought out the varied musical colourings of Verdi's masterpiece. Martin Otava's unit set was attractive and functional while Valentine Topencharov's costumes established the time and place of the action. Stage direction was by the company's artistic director, Giorgio Lalov, who kept the plot flowing with relevant action.

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Copyright © 27 October 2007 Susan Hampton, Los Angeles, USA


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