Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Razzle Dazzle

May 28, 2009

Marina Poplavskaya and Massimo Giordano
Photo: Robert Millard/LAO 2009

There’s plenty of good news about Los Angeles Opera’s current revival of La Traviata that opened last week. In fact, it is probably just about the most successful revival in a season laden with well worn retreads to buttress a few much higher profile new items including the first two installments of Achim Freyer’s fabulous new Ring Cycle. Don’t get me wrong. On paper this Traviata looks pretty dismal, but it turns out to be worthwhile despite its noticeable shortcomings. There is still that rather dreadful Marta Domingo production. No, not the flapper one that L.A. has foisted on San Francisco this summer, but the earlier one whose mise en scène is best described as Beverley Hills Adjacent. It's the same one Renée Fleming got roped into for the DVD production released by L.A. Opera last year, which is good news for the legions of opera goers unable to get their fill of applauding for sets.

But I digress. The dreariness is overcome by a rather good cast featuring Marina Poplavskaya in her local debut as Violleta. It’s really refreshing to hear a soprano that can actually sing the coloratura passages in Act I. It’s a bright and shiny sound, though not always a particularly warm one. It can be a bit tight and sharp at the top, but it never feels like she's cheating or trying to turn the part into something else that more readily fits her particular voice. And, while I found her enthralling in Act I, I was rather frustrated by a perceptible coldness as the show went on that may have been more of an acting issue than a singing one. Still, Poplavskaya produces some technically admirable singing. I wouldn’t necessarily rank her among the best Violetta's in the world right now, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see her arrive at that point sometime soon. The rest of the cast is less steady, but no one is bad either. In the first three shows Massimo Giordano sings Alfredo before moving on, and Andrzej Dobber plays his father Giorgio. Dobber wasn't particularly commanding and seemed overshadowed too easily by the young lovers. I've seen Giordano in this before, and this time around I felt him to be bigger and bolder, straining less in the performance, though I could have used a little more urgency from him overall. He fares better in this smaller house vocally and his acting seemed less forced.

The other notable thing in this Traviata is that the orchestra is led by Assistant Conductor, Chorus Master, and L.A. Master Chorale director Grant Gershon. He seemed to have a good grip on the opera overall, though the audience didn't really seem to know what to do with him at the curtain call. Has no one in the opera audience sampled his work with the LAMC before? (If so, that's a shame, and there's a good chance to fix that this Sunday.) There were some minor issues of agreement in pacing between him and some of the principals, but nothing to worry about. Gershon gave a solid debut at the L.A. Opera podium and with the good work he's doing with the chorus, it's reassuring to know that he'll continue to be around across the street from Disney Concert Hall. The production continues through June 21, but do be aware the last three performances will have a completely different cast featuring the very familiar Violetta of Elizabeth Futral.



" It's the same one Renée Fleming got roped into for the DVD production released by L.A. Opera last year, which is good news for the legions of opera goers unable to get their fill of applauding for sets."

To clarify: It was Renee Fleming who vetoed the flapper-era Traviata and required that LAO dust off the red horror that currently graces the Chandler stage. I would count her among the set-applauding crowd.
Just saw the flapper production at a dress rehearsal in San Francisco and couldn't believe how embarrassingly bad it was. This earlier production can't be worse, can it?
Oh yes it can. My memory of this 20s outfit was that despite the giggle inducing second scene of act II, the color scheme was strong and there were some pleasant if minimal stage images. But I wouldn't go so far to say it was good. Do they still have the big white bear skin rug in Act I?
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter