Make us your home page
Instagram

Stellar leading performances elevate La Traviata from good to special

Cody Austin as Alfredo and Cecilia Violetta Lopez as Violetta deliver stellar performances in Opera Tampa’s La Traviata.

Rob-Harris Productions

Cody Austin as Alfredo and Cecilia Violetta Lopez as Violetta deliver stellar performances in Opera Tampa’s La Traviata.

TAMPA — The curtain opens on elegant attire, ballroom dancing, a chandelier and soft lighting. It is clear from that moment that Opera Tampa's La Traviata is going to be a serious affair, one well-suited to the larger Morsani Hall at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

Two singers linger behind the others to set the tone for one of opera's most enduring hits since its debut in Italy in 1853, a showcase of Giuseppe Verdi's talents as both plumber and poet, whose workspace is the soul. A smitten Alfredo Germont confesses to the courtesan Violetta that the love he's feeling is "the pulse of the universe, the whole universe."

Though impressed, Violetta demurs. "You should find somebody else," she says. "Then you wouldn't find it hard to forget me." The simplicity of the plot, based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, leaves luxurious spaces for productions to fill. At the top, Violetta has told her guests she is not feeling well. We know she's not going to get better, and he's not going to fall out of love. We can relax, glance just enough at the translated Italian on supertitles to stay abreast of what's going on, and enjoy some thrilling music.

This production is surely what organizers of the Florida Opera Festival, three productions at the Straz Center (Don Giovanni, the final show, runs April 8 and 10 in Morsani Hall) had in mind. Nothing against Cosi Fan Tutte, which played in February with some of the same performers, and maybe the lighter Mozart opera suits more cerebral tastes. But with La Traviata, it is as if everyone from maestro Daniel Lipton to the stage hands has tried to elevate the most glorious story line, by the most celebrated composer, in the fullest possible way.

The story plays out with its attendant voices. Standout performances include mezzo-soprano Sarah Nordin as Flora, Violetta's friend, and Jean Francois Lapointe as baritone Giorgio Germont, Alfredo's tormented father. There are no weak links in the cast.

This is the most lavish set and lighting display so far, with three changes after the opening scene. The orchestra, conducted by Lipton, complements the most tender arias indispensably, particularly as written for the strings during the rapid decline of Violetta's health to tuberculosis, each of her tenuous movements gnawing a bit more into that piece of fishing line by which she holds to life. It is a lovely scene, the stage lit by candles on all sides. Costumes and makeup hit all the right tones to set up the story of a woman whose flaws are indistinguishable from her strengths, surrounded by characters who are unusually human in their responsiveness and empathy. Some inventive staging by director Frank Van Laecke, including serenades by Alfredo from the balcony and another vital touch in the final act I won't spoil here, advance the thesis that Opera Tampa has gone all out in a very focused way.

None of the foregoing would matter if the two principals did not meet the call. Don't worry.

Cecilia Violetta Lopez, is simply superb as Violetta. Her voice has a wide range of color, with brighter and darker tones, all lovely and inviting of hours of listening. Lopez also embodies the role fully, something that can not always be said of opera singers. And Cody Austin as Alfredo is singing a part he might have been born to play. Austin, in a recent interview, said he believes Verdi captures the strengths of his voice in a way other composers do not. That would seem obvious from this performance.

La Traviata is everything opera should be. This production aims high at fulfilling Verdi's score, and comes pretty darn close.

Don't forget your handkerchief.

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

. if you go

La Traviata

The opera starts at 2 p.m. today at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $49.50-$125. (813) 229-7827, strazcenter.org.

Stellar leading performances elevate La Traviata from good to special 03/12/16 [Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2016 9:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. ‘80s acts dominate lineup of 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

    Blogs

    Oh, yes. Christmas is coming early this year to ‘80s fans in Florida. Disney’s Epcot Center has announced the lineup to its “Eat to the Beat” concert series that coincides with their annual International Food & Wine Festival.

  4. Equality Florida leader honored at Tampa U2 concert

    Briefs

    TAMPA — Equality Florida director Nadine Smith couldn't attend last week's U2 concert in Tampa, but she can tell you which of her friends had great seats for the June 14 show at Raymond James Stadium.

    Nadine Smith, Equality Florida founder and CEO, received a unique distinction last week when U2 included her in a montage of photos saluting activism and women leaders.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23

    Events

    Leslie Odom Jr.: A solo concert by the Broadway star who won a Tony for his performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. 7 p.m., Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $35.50-$55.50. (813) 229-7827.

    Leslie Odom Jr. accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in "Hamilton"  during the 70th Annual Tony Awards  on June 12, 2016.  (Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)