When people think of a “typical” opera, they probably think of La Traviata, with its melodramatic plot of a “fallen woman” who seduces a well-heeled Romeo, only to be felled by disease in a dramatic death scene. It has the kind of music Verdi was a master at composing: The classical “ear-worm,” with soaring melodies that, even if you don’t know by name, you’ve heard a thousand times.
Traviata is an easy sell (the second most widely performed opera in America), but the canny decision by the Dallas Opera was to chose a production as gorgeously overwrought as the opera itself: If conductor Marco Guirarini’s handling of the music doesn’t get you, Allen Charles Klein’s remarkable sets and costumes — as Baroque as a Velasquez painting — will seal the deal.
Stage director Bliss Hebert opens the show with Violetta (Greek soprano Myrto Papatanasiu in her American debut) contemplatively wandering her home before a huge party explodes with grand doors, spectacular chandeliers and lush costumes. From there, it trots along, from the boisterous brindisi song “Libiamo ne’lieti calici” to the haunting “Di Provenza” (performed gloriously by Laurent Naouri as M. Germont).
There’s also James Valenti, cutting a dashing figure (he looks like he could be a Disney animated hero) as Alfredo.
But Traviata hinges on its Violetta, and while by the end Papatanasiu acquits herself, her hesitance on the opera’s signature aria, “Sempre libera,” falls ever-so-short. Her voice simply isn’t as limber and subtle as it needs to be. Of course, maybe that’s the consumption — I never could figure how a girl with TB could hit that high E-flat.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
La Traviata, Winspear Opera House, 4103 Flora St. Through April 29 (in repertory with The Magic Flute). DallasOpera.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 20, 2012.