Soprano Matanovic set to tackle role’s challenges in Utah Opera’s “Traviata”

Wed Oct 09, 2019 at 11:44 am
By Edward Reichel
Soprano Anya Matanovic stars in Verdi’s La traviata, which opens Utah Opera’s season Saturday night. Photo: Kathleen Sykes

Utah Opera’s repertoire contains a substantial number of audience favorites that are reprised at fairly short intervals. 

One of these warhorses is Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata, last seen in Salt Lake City in 2014, which will open the company’s season Saturday night in the newly renovated Capitol Theatre. 

Verdi’s 1853 setting of Alexandre Dumas the younger’s play La dame aux camélias consistently ranks as one of the most frequently performed operas on both sides of the Atlantic. And soprano Anya Matanovic—who will be taking on the daunting role of Violetta Valéry in this production—said that should come as no surprise to anyone.

“It’s absolutely a popular opera,” the young American singer said in an interview with Utah Arts Review. She added that everyone is familiar with the music, even if they have never seen La traviata. “There are a lot of pieces that people know without realizing they’re from this opera.”

Also adding to the success La traviata has enjoyed over the years is the fact that the story is timeless. Young Alfredo Germont falls in love with Violetta, a beautiful young courtesan, and she, in turn, falls in love with him. Prodded by Alfredo’s disapproving father, she leaves Alfredo, and the couple separate. Violetta becomes gravely ill and Alfredo returns; as he and Violetta reaffirm their love for one another she dies in his arms.

Even though this will only be Matanovic’s second outing as Violetta she said that La traviata is definitely one of her favorite roles. “I love it so much. It’s one of the top few operas that I love because it’s so special.”

What appeals to her is that Violetta is quite a demanding part. “It’s vocally challenging for several reasons, she said. “There is a lot of singing for a relatively short opera and your voice has to be different for each of the three acts. I have to pace myself and stay focused. But I don’t really think about any of this because the role is so beautifully written and satisfying to sing.”

La traviata is Matanovic’s sixth production at Utah Opera in the last 10 years, so local operagoers have had a chance to see the singer’s expanding repertoire.

Her first role in Salt Lake City was Gretel in Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel in the 2010-11 season. Other roles she’s sung here include Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and Adina in Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. And last season she gave a standout performance as Juliet in Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.

Matanovic said she always relishes her time with Utah Opera. “I love coming here, because it feels like family. They’re such great people, and there is such a high level of production here.

“I’m really grateful to have this company and for having them invite me back so often. I’ve made great friendships here and I’ve had great collaborations.”

But it’s not only the chance to sing at Utah Opera that makes Matanovic look forward to coming to Salt Lake City. “You have the setting and the mountains, it’s just so beautiful here. And I love to explore the city and find different places and new restaurants. It’s really a great place to come to.”

The soprano said that this staging of La traviata is a huge contrast to her previous one. “The last production was more stark and more intimately portrayed. This one is more traditional.”

The Capitol Theatre itself will also aid in appreciating this production, Matanovic said. Because it’s a smaller venue than many opera houses today, it will give operagoers a good sense of how 19th century audiences experienced La traviata. “It’s the perfect size for these shows, because they were created with this size of hall in mind.”

Rehearsals have been well underway now, and Matanovic said she has been enjoying working with the others in the cast, al of whom she’s collaborating with for the first time. “Rafael Moras [who sings the role of Alfredo] is a young tenor who is a fantastic singer with a beautiful voice. And Michael Chioldi [in the role of Giorgio Germont] has an exquisite voice and brings a lot of depth to his character.”

The conductor is Steven White, who is making his Utah Opera debut, and the stage director is Garnett Bruce, who’s directed several operas for the company. He was in Utah most recently in November 2018 to direct the Utah Symphony’s semi-staged performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide in Abravanel Hall.

Matanovic said she is thrilled to be working with White and Bruce.

“They’re both amazing at what they do,” she said. “They have their own ideas about how the opera should be presented, but they’re open to collaborating with all of us. It’s really rare that you get a team like that. It makes for a unique experience.”

La traviata runs October 12-20 in the Capitol Theatre.; 801-355-2787. 

Comments are closed.