Traviata for everyone

La Traviata is one of the world’s best-loved operas for a reason, and the current Austin Lyric Opera production shows why.

Although some recommend Carmen, Tosca, Elixir of Love, Madama Butterfly or even La Boheme, I always recommend La Traviata as the first opera for those who have never been to one. Even the most threadbare and meager performance of this opera will always give pleasure because it has everything: a compelling story and music that cannot be forgotten, along with momentum that only seems to grow as the audience is carried along.

Last night brought us a beautiful performance. We were especially lucky in our Alfredo, who can really sing and who actually has a youthful appearance. Violetta and Giorgio acquitted themselves very well. There’s nothing quite like those times when the singers are out there unaccompanied by musical instruments; it’s like seeing someone walk on a high wire without a balance pole or net.

The two party scenes were the best ever, with dancers truly waltzing in the initial scenes. It could have been my imagination, but I thought I spotted a party-goer intended to be George Sand. At Flora’s party, the choreography was wonderful as was every aspect of the divertissement. I loved the use of ribbons on the tambourines and streaming from the ballerina’s fillet headdress as she danced, and great advantage was taken of the varied linings of the capes worn by those in matador costume. Every part of the stage was used to best advantage.

The orchestra and chorus sound better and better. Although I thought that the tempo for the overture was a bit on the slow side, immediately preceding that was a very snappy rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, with great use of snare rolls and clashing cymbal. There’s nothing like a fine orchestra as accompaniment when you sing this anthem.

At the end, there was scarcely a dry eye in the house. There were sniffles and even sobs to be heard, and many were the handkerchiefs to be seen. The curtain call elicited sustained and sincere applause.

Austin can be very proud of this very fine theatrical and musical production, one that should not be missed by anyone who loves the stage or vocal performance.

Last night the house seemed to be full, despite the competing allure of football (scores were checked by phone out on the terrace during intermissions). Tickets for the remaining performances remain available. Those performances are: Wednesday, November 10, at 7:30 pm; Friday, November 12 at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, November 14, at 3:00 pm.

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