We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Meredith Hudak, John Kaneklides, Violetta Zabbi, Julie-Anne Hamula, Wayne Line, Carol Castel, Georgios Papadimitriou
How much of an opera can you strip away and not lose the essence?  If our experience of Delaware Valley Opera's stripped-down version of La Traviata last night taught  us something it is this:  it's all about the music.  Given good voices who can create convincing characters and some astute direction we can walk away feeling incredibly satisfied.

We are sitting in the small acoustically marvelous theater at the National Opera Center, aware that it is Columbus Day and it is an important year for Giuseppi Verdi celebrations, his 200th anniversary.  How fitting to mount one of his greatest creations!  DVO will be presenting the work in its entirely with the North Duchess Symphony Orchestra this Sunday at 3PM in full costume, but as a special gift for us New Yorkers we got the same gifted principals and a piano score performed by the talented Maestra Violetta (!) Zabbi who never missed a trill.

Violetta (our favorite opera heroine) was given an astonishing performance by soprano Julie-Anne Hamula whose brilliant soprano and thrilling embellishments were augmented by the most subtle and heart-rending acting.  This was a Violetta any woman could understand and relate to.  In Act I, her ambivalence about giving up her shallow life of pleasure for the richer but scarier life of love was made plain vocally and amplified by gesture, facial expression and body language.  Her death scene moved us to the very core.

Similarly, her Alfredo was beautifully sung and enacted by talented tenor John Kaneklides.  His commitment to the character of the young provincial man who loses his heart to the beautiful courtesan was total; his ringing tenor, a young yet manly sound, is one to watch.  We witnessed his moods of romantic adoration, disappointment, anger and remorse with never a false moment.

Baritone Wayne Line was not quite as convincing in his portrayal of Germont.  His transition from arrogance to sympathy didn't quite make it.  Mezzo Meredith Hudak supported the enterprise in the roles of Flora and Annina.  Georgios Papadimitriou was onstage briefly as Dr. Grenvil and has a lovely baritone.

The esteemed Carol Castel directed with a sure hand.  We have always loved the Zeffirelli production at The Metropolitan Opera, now sadly retired; we will never forget the fine production with Renee Fleming and Rolando Villazon.  But the new "stripped down" version mounted at the Met with it's gigantic clock, ugly chorus and ever present Dr. Death left us cold.  Not so this DVO production.  Minus chorus, minus sets, minus the gambling scene--we were left with what amounts to a very intimate opera in which we were allowed to care deeply for the ill-fated Violetta and her remorseful lover.  Bravi tutti!

© meche kroop

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