Francesca Zambello, General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival, brought her imaginative production of “La Traviata” to the Festival’s Alice Busch Theater.
Zambello conceives the party at the opera’s beginning as Violetta reliving of her first meeting with Alfredo while she, on her death bed, awaits Alfredo’s promised arrival.
[Below: the final quintet from Verdi’s “La Traviata” in which Alfredo (Kang Wang, far left) is at the death bed of Violetta (Amanda Woodbury, second from left in bed), while the Elder Germont (Adrian Timpau, sitting on bed at right) and Annina (Bryn Holdsworth, right center, right) and Doctor Grenvil (William Clay Thompson, right center, left) give the couple privacy; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Amanda Woodbury’s Violetta
As the Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra begins playing the opening prelude, a hospital ward with three visible beds is seen through a scrim, the dying Violetta at the left. As the Act I party music resounds, Woodbury’s Violetta throws off her bedclothes, emerging in a party dress. Instantly, the beds disappear and the party begins.
[Below: Amanda Woodbury as Violetta; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
In other productions the party guests depart, leaving Violetta and Alfredo alone together for a duet. Then Violetta alone sings the double aria Ah fors e lui and Sempre libera.
In Zambello’s production, as Violetta begins Sempre libera the hospital beds return. The aria’s death-bed setting (with Wang’s Alfredo’s joining Violetta for its final passages) provides an eerie but dramatically coherent context to the familiar aria. She is deluding herself that she can live freely, when she in fact is in the final stages of death by tuberculosis.
Woodbury, who I have praised in a lyric coloratura rarity [Review: Donizetti’s “Pia de’ Tolomei” at Spoleto Festival-USA, June 3, 2018] skillfully performed Violetta’s great aria Sempre libera.
[Below: the dying Violetta (Amanda Woodbury, left) sings of the pursuit of pleasure, and, in her thoughts is joined by her lover Alfredo (Kang Wang, right); edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Woodbury’s emotionally stirring Sempre libera presaged the reflective and inherently gloomier aria Addio, del passato, which Woodbury also performed with distinction.
Kang Wang’s Alfredo
Australian lyric tenor Kang Wang was an ardent Alfredo, with a passionate performance of Alfredo’s major aria De’ miei bollenti spiriti.
Wang was dramatically effective in conveying the range of emotions that his love affair with Violetta and his relationship with his father brought forth.
[Below: Alfredo (Kang Wang, left) scandalously insults Violetta (Amanda Woodbury, right) by throwing his gambling winnings at her; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Adrian Timpau’s Giorgio Germont
Moldovan baritone Adrian Timpau was impressive as Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, delivering Germont’s great aria Di provenza il mar, il suol with sensitivity.
[Below: the Elder Germont (Adrian Timpau, left) presents his demands as to what should happen; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Timpau returns to the Glimmerglass Festival after a successful performance two seasons ago in a virtually unknown Donizetti Opera American Premiere Review: A Musically Appealing, Theatrically Arresting “Siege of Calais” Links Donizetti and Zambello – July 16, 2017.
Other Cast Members
Kentucky bass-baritone William Clay Thompson authoritatively sang the role of Doctor Grenvil. The doctor takes part in the opera’s beautiful final quintet (traditionally cut for much of the opera’s history, but in recent years regularly performed).
In Zambello’s production, Doctor Grenvil, who brings his medicine bag to a party, reminds her (and us) that Violetta’s health is in a much frailer state than her party-time conviviality suggests.
[Below: Doctor Grenvil (William Clay Thompson, left) has Violetta (Amanda Woodbury, right) under his care; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Texas baritone Jonathan Bryan was the Baron Douphol, whom Alfredo considers his rival for Violetta’s affections and whom he wounds slightly in an offstage fight.
[Below: Alfredo (Kang Wang, left) shows his dislike for the Baron Douphol (Jonathan Bryan, right); edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Louisiana tenor Kameron Lopreore was Gastone de Letorieres. Colorado baritone Schuler Vargas was the Marquis d’Obigny. Illinois mezzo-soprano Lindsay Metzger was Flora Bevoix.
Maryland tenor Aaron Crouch was Giuseppe. Georgia bass-baritone Allen Michael Jones was a Messenger, and Michigan bass-baritone Peter Morgan was Flora’s Servant.
Glimmerglass Young Artists performed the dance routines, to the choreography of California choreographer Andrea Beasom.
[Below: two dancers, Tucker Reed Breder (left) and Jorell Lawyer-Jefferson (right) portray matadors for the party guests; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Maestro Joseph Colaneri and the Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra and Chorus
The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra and Chorus (the latter comprised of Young Artists) gave a spirited performance under the leadership of Maestro Joseph Colaneri.
[Below: Maestro Joseph Colaneri; edited image, based on a Kristin Hoebermann photograph, courtesy of Maestro Colaneri.]
Francesca Zambello’s Production and Staging
The “La Traviata” sets by British designer Peter J. Davison and costumes by New York designer Jess Goldstein are part of Francesca Zambello’s production, co-sponsored by the Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera, the Atlanta Opera, the Seattle Opera and Indiana University.
Any Zambello production can be expected to be both true to the opera’s story and full of insights, often surprising, that illuminate that story. Among Verdi’s works, these include her productions of “Forza” [A New Force of Destiny: Adina Aaron, Monsalve, Delavan Shine in Zambello’s Remake of Verdi’s “Forza” – Washington National Opera, October 12, 2013] and of “Aida” [Review: Zambello’s Spectacular “Aida”, San Francisco Opera, November 5, 2016 and Role Debuts All Around in Intimate “Aida” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 23, 2012.]
Zambello is one of the contemporary directors who insist that each character, including every member of the chorus, have a backstory as how they happen to be in a given scene. This adds immeasurably the stage action.
I recommend the Glimmerglass Festival Francesca Zambello production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” enthusiastically, both for the veteran opera-goer and the person new to opera.