La Traviata


Scenic Designer: Tom Mays; Costume Designer: Gail Bakkom; Lighting Designer: Josh Epstein
Lawrence Edelson, Director
Minnesota Opera - 2011

“Great opera is predicated upon a handful of common elements which, while easy to define, are notoriously difficult to master. First and foremost is an emotionally evocative narrative capable of sustaining intoxicatingly heightened passions. Inducing such a sublime condition requires a captivating score matched against a riveting cast capable of fusing libretto with music, amplifying both to an exalted degree. While few productions fully achieve such an eminent goal, the Minnesota Opera’s stunning new production of La traviata, now running at the Ordway Center, proves a thrilling exception...With soprano Elizabeth Futral as Violetta, tenor Bruno Ribeiro as Alfredo, and baritone Stephen Powell as Alfredo’s disapproving father, Giorgio Germont, La traviata offers a trio of astonishing performances... The emotive thrust of these characters is given a sweeping range through the imaginative verve of stage director Lawrence Edelson. With stage movement as fluid as the music, Edelson maintains continuous action, pausing only to punctuate key passages. Each scene is a model of mood, from the boisterous opening party, through Violetta’s charming of suitors (wittily recalling Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or – if you prefer – Madonna’s Material Girl video), past the romantic sting of Act II, all the way to the gripping finale. The dynamic staging also displays masterful shifts between the ensemble chorus and flourishes from such skilled performers as Victoria Vargas, Brad Benoit, and Jonathan Kimple... Productions of revered works all too often exchange daring innovation for the safety of imitation, following prescribed patterns of presentation rather than taking artistic risks. The Minnesota Opera’s La traviata is the absolute antithesis of such uninspired productions. Gifted with extraordinary performances and a visionary creative team, La traviata achieves heartbreaking pathos, reasserting the enthralling greatness of Verdi’s masterpiece.”

The Minneapolis Examiner

”Since the reality TV craze seems to be on the wane, how about some reality opera? That’s what Giuseppe Verdi had in mind when he wrote La Traviata, adapting Alexandre Dumas fils’ largely autobiographical novel about his doomed love affair with a high-class courtesan. When it premiered in Paris, many audience members confronted a passel of party-hopping characters based upon themselves. It may be 158 years later, but “La Traviata” still needs to feel a lot like reality to work. Thankfully, the Minnesota Opera’s current production is all about making the emotions as genuine as possible. From heart-on-their-sleeves characterizations to voices wringing every ounce of joy and sadness from Verdi’s music to a dignified design scheme that always augments the action, it’s an excellent example of grand opera brought down to human scale...director Lawrence Edelson deserves as much credit as anyone for a production that transports audiences yet keeps it real.”

Pioneer Press

”...this is the best Minnesota Opera production I’ve seen to date... Stage director Lawrence Edelson and lighting designer Josh Epstein elegantly conduct the action so that it’s always completely clear to the audience not only where the action is, but what’s at stake...the fact that world-class productions like this can take place in our mid-sized Midwestern metropolis—and can, in fact, pack the house—makes it hard to be pessimistic about the future, or the present, of classical music.”

Twin Cities Daily Planet

”There are many ways to treat Verdi’s 1853 La Traviata, deservedly among the most popular of operas. Some are more fashionable than others. The Minnesota Opera’s [production], which opened Saturday in St. Paul, will never attract the kind of attention showered on the studied audacity of high-concept updatings in Salzburg or New York. Yet.. [it] captures more of the work’s emotional depth and power than most trendier productions could hope to do...Stage director Lawrence Edelson allows himself a bit of titillation early in the evening, injecting a note of lasciviousness into Violetta’s great soliloquy “Sempre libera” by turning the men of the chorus into a paying audience. He also gives us a glimpse of the lovers’ foreplay at the beginning of Act 2. But from the elder Germont’s fateful entrance a few minutes later, Edelson and colleagues are on their best behavior, their work full of felicitous touches. The complex, wrenching scene between Violetta and Germont following that entrance is the heart of “Traviata” and one of the finest things in opera. Elizabeth Futral and Stephen Powell play it magnificently, alive to every flicker of feeling: indignation, fear, shame, sympathy, grief, resignation.”

Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune