Happy Boxing Day. This was $2. I got is because at the time I knew La Traviata was first on the schedule to be performed this year at The Houston Grand Opera. I thought it my be a good idea to listen to a few highlights before seeing this work. I also thought it would make for a good commentary as well after seeing it. As a side note, as I have been writing most of the posts for the second half of 2017 way ahead of schedule, I am writing this one on Christmas.
Hurricane Harvey left many things in town in disarray, and the Wortham Theater, home to the HGO was unfortunately not spared. Although props, stages, and costumes had been saved, the lower levels of the Theater flooded and repairs are not due to finish until the end of the season. But being the ever so resourceful people we Houstonians are, the 2017-18 season moved to a make-shift venue, the HGO Resilience Theater at George R Brown Convention Center. Don’t get me wrong. I totally applaud the tremendous effort that went into finding a quick temporary solution and I am glad that the shows are going on as scheduled. The seats, however, are pretty rough. It is a bit uncomfortable to sit for 3+ hours. I also thought there could be more signage as it took me a while to find the entrance to my event at the convention center. Finally, there is not real clear area to enjoy a smoke whereas the Wortham Center had the lovely gazebo. That being said, again, I applaud HGO for keeping the season alive.
That brings us to this work, Verdi’s La Traviata or “The Fallen Women”. Based on a novel by Andre Dumas, this opera tells the story of a French Courtesean who struggle with the pressure from her lover’s family as well as illness. It was first performed in 1853. Verdi at the time, was living with a woman out of wedlock which may have influenced some of the direction of the work. The first audience was a bit less than positive (although I believe this was more a function of the singers rather than the work), but over time, this has grown to be one of the major and most popular works of opera.
As with many operas, I compared my thoughts with my buddy Scott, who used to sing in the chorus of the HGO. He felt the story was lacking. I thought contrary (although I did find it odd that after telling her boyfriends father that she was dying, the father says that she is young and can find a new boyfriend. Did I stutter? What part of me dying did you not understand?)Likewise, he enjoyed the ending where I felt it was a bit flat. Overall, I really liked the production , which was done in a style of the period. I should probably also mention that I also really enjoyed Handel’s Julius Caesar, which had a more contemporary staging and was my first opera with counter-tenors.
There are a good number of musical highlights, as noted on this album. Perhaps the most popular song (or at least most recognizable) is “Libiamo” (The Drinking Song” which has been used on commercials and movies for some time.
It is presented on this album along with other highlights from the Rome Opera House under the Italian conductor Tullio Serafin (1878-1968). The lead role of Violetta is handled by Spanish soprano Victoria De Los Angeles (1923-2005). The role of her lover Alfredo is done by tenor Carlo Del Monte. Finally the role of Alfredo’s father is performed by baritone Mario Sereni. Apparently, this has been a popular opera to record as well as there are quite a few recordings over time. This one, by Angel Records appears to have come out in 1956.
As stated above, I did quite enjoy this opera and it probably helped that I listened to this album beforehand (which I also did enjoy). I had a few ideas about the sample, but ultimatley went with “Imponete”, a duet from Act Two between Germont (Alfredo’s father) and Violetta. In this moment, Germont is begging Violetta to leave his son alone as he worries that her standing as a courtesean will prevent any decent man from marrying his daughter. It was a pretty good part of the opera and made for a good part of this album.
Satisfactory. Looking forward to more of the works this year from the HGO.