Utah Opera’s “Traviata” soars with soprano’s poignant Violetta

Mon Oct 14, 2019 at 10:14 am
By Catherine Reese Newton
Anya Matanovic and Rafael Moras star in Verdi’s La Traviata at Utah Opera. Photo: Dana Sohm

Salt Lake City’s Capitol Theatre is open for business after renovations–and once again it is Violetta Valéry who is hosting the house-warming party. 

As it did in 2014, Utah Opera has chosen Verdi’s beloved La traviata to welcome music lovers back to the company’s longtime home.

Anya Matanovic — a longtime company favorite in roles such as Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel) and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) — gives a knockout performance in the title role. This is the soprano’s second outing as Violetta, and she already invests the role with vocal sparkle and psychological depth. 

She is wholly convincing as the carefree party girl of Act I, dazzling the audience with nimble coloratura in “Sempre libera.” Yet the character’s dignity and resolve as she agrees to sacrifice her happiness in Act II don’t come as a surprise, because Matanovic has already shown us this side of Violetta with her reflective, darker-hued “Ah, fors’ è lui.” By the time Violetta’s story reaches its heartbreaking end, the audience has become fully invested in Matanovic’s performance.

As Violetta’s suitor, Alfredo Germont, tenor Rafael Moras brings a bright, ringing tone, if not always an abundance of power. Still, his voice is pleasant and melds beautifully with Matanovic in their duetted moments. He captures Alfredo’s puppy-dog urgency when courting Violetta, as well as his swagger in the confrontation with his rival, Baron Douphol (Christopher Holmes).

Michael Chioldi commands every scene he is in as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father — sometimes to the point of overwhelming his onstage son vocally. But, as so often is the case with this opera, the most interesting relationship in the show is between the elder Germont and Violetta. Stentorian and incisive in his initial appeal for propriety, Chioldi’s voice and demeanor soften and warm as Germont realizes Violetta is a better woman than he imagined her to be.

Utah Opera’s 2019-20 Resident Artists make an admirable showing in this production. They are tenor Addison Marlor as the bon vivant Gastone de Letourières, bass-baritone Brandon Bell as kindly Dr. Grenvil, mezzo Quinn Middleman as effervescent Flora Bervoix and soprano Grace Kahl as loyal maid Annina.  

Conductor Steven White draws an opulent performance from the Utah Symphony. Director Garnett Bruce creates beautiful stage pictures but keeps the performers moving around the stage in ways that feel dynamic and natural. The Utah Opera Chorus, prepared by Michaella Calzaretta, gives a full-throated performance in the ensemble scenes.

Peter Dean Beck’s traditionalist sets make a repeat appearance from the last 2014 production. Susan Memmott Allred has designed gorgeous gowns (and some smart daywear); a highlight is Violetta’s deep red Act I gown, with white embroidered flowers suggesting the character’s trademark camellias.

What really sets the production apart visually, though, is the choreography of Daniel Charon, stylishly executed by six Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company members: With the exception of their witty and invigorating entertainment at Flora’s party, they offer more of a meditation on Violetta’s journey than a simple retelling of her story.

La traviata continues through Oct. 20 at the Capitol Theatre. utahopera.org

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