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Indiana University Opera Theater: La Traviata

The IU Opera Theater opens its 60th season with a terrific performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s lovely “La Traviata.”

The sets and costumes by C. David Higgins got loud applause for the opening ball room, the get away cottage and even the evocatively darkened sickroom of the final scene. The décor was sumptuous with the large chorus mostly in white, black and gray with the principals in striking colors. Everywhere there were mirrors reflecting the characters and their actions back onto themselves as a commentary on the artificiality and fragility of the life in Paris’s half world, its demi mondaine.

Stage director Tito Copibianco has lavished his years of experience on the production with detailed attention to the principals, and plenty of involved action for William Jon Gray’s very accomplished chorus.

Saturday night’s consumptive heroine, the courtesan Violetta was sung beautifully by Joanna Ruszala. She has a lovely warm low register that can simply caress and then plenty of edge and power in the upper portions of the range. Her acting, from the joyfully energetic to the tragically pathetic was a pleasure to watch. Partnering her was tenor Jason Wickson as the young poetic Alfredo Germont with a very nice characterization of the smitten young man and a voice that always reflected the drama. Composer Verdi certainly loved his heroines and his tenors, but he seems to have had a soft spot for his older characters as well. Jin Uk Lee took advantage of this as he brought our sympathy to his role as the man who separates the lovers, Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont singing with feeling and power. There’s a neat touch in the final scene. The lighting and staging moved my attention away from the death bed to Violetta’s maid as she was overcome by grief and fell to her knees crossing herself at the heroine’s death. Jessica Feigenbaum’s grief was a potent note.

From the first sadly tentative notes in the orchestra, David Effron conducted a production that was always dynamically on the move through the musically and dramatically varied score in a very satisfying evening of theater. Many in the audience were standing for the applause at the curtain call.

The IU Opera Theater’s production of “La Traviata” continues on Friday and Saturday, October 3rd and 4th.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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