By Giuseppe Verdi
Conductor: Dan Ettinger
Director: Marta Domingo
Violetta Valery: Elizabeth Futral
Flora Bervoix: Margaret Thompson
Alfredo Germont: Arturo Chacón-Cruz
Giorgio Germont: Lado Ataleli
Last night I was back at the Kennedy Center, at the opera house this time, for my first opera of the season: Verdi's La Traviata, or “the one who strayed” (and paid dearly for it.) My friend Jennifer was with me as this year we managed to coordinate our efforts when acquiring our mini-subscriptions, and consequently are sitting next to each other for a change. Inspired from Alexandre Dumas’ famed La Dame aux camélias, which was itself inspired by real-life courtesan Marguerite Duplessis, with whom the author had a love affair before she died at 23, this tragic story remains one of the most beloved operas in the repertoire. And for very good reasons: a tragic love story and incredibly melodious arias from the mind of the master of Italian opera can only be a winning production in the right hands.
And those hands were right last night. The two main characters were played and sung by two of the hottest opera names around: Elizabeth Frutal and Arturo Chacón-Cruz. And deliver the goods they did. She was a lovely Violetta, her voice effortlessly going up and down the register of emotions. He stood up on his own, adequately filling the part, even when not totally mastering his promising instrument. A special mention also has to be made of Lado Ataneli, who played the role of Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father, with force and dignity.
Marta Domingo’s production was mostly by-the-book, with beautiful costumes and well-polished sets. Nothing appeared particularly or even slightly unusual, except for the final scene where the minimalist décor of blue and green, and a religious overtone, highlighted the emotional power of the tragic ending. The most breathtaking tableau was undoubtedly the second scene of Act 2. In a decadent mix of black, red and hot pink, Flora’s party was an arresting vision of upscale debauchery reflected on wall mirrors decorated with pictures of half-naked nymphs. Marta Domingo ain't no Martha Stewart, that’s for sure!
All in all, it was a perfectly satisfying night at the opera, with good value, and no big surprises, for our money. A classic is a classic is a classic. The full-capacity crowd was predictably more eclectic than usual and gave the artists some well-deserved ovations. Our only regret was the two 20-minute intermissions that made the evening seem fairly long, even if the opera itself runs "only" about two hours. Some things shouldn't be changed, others, on the other hand, could be easily adjusted and make everybody’s evening even more enjoyable.