Yale Opera to perform La Traviata
The Yale School of Music Opera Program will present Giuseppe Verdi’s passionate love story, “La Traviata,” as its major production of the year. The opera will be performed at the Shubert Theater in New Haven on Friday, February 28, and Saturday, March 1, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. Sung in Italian with supertitles, the performance will be fully staged and costumed and accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale.
“La Traviata,” first performed in 1853, tells the tragic story of Violetta, a beautiful, sophisticated Parisian courtesan whose life revolves around parties and paramours. Alfredo Germont falls deeply in love with her and persuades her to give up her wild ways and move in with him. Sometime later, under pressure from Alfredo’s father, she renounces her lover to save his family from the social embarrassment she has brought on them. This sacrifice makes it possible for Alfredo’s innocent younger sister to marry well. Violetta does not explain, and Alfredo, misunderstanding her motives, publicly humiliates her and runs off. Her already frail health deteriorates into end-stage tuberculosis. On her deathbed, all is explained and forgiven, and she dies in the arms of her beloved.
Violetta is a “a soprano’s dream role, demanding a full range of emotions – everything from intense love for life to utter heartbreak,” says John Baril, coordinator of the Opera Program at Yale. Divas Maria Callas, Rosa Ponselle, and Joan Sutherland have set their stamp on the part, and soon, Julianne Borg and Lori Trustman will hope to do the same.
“This is an extraordinarily challenging role, with singing that includes high-flying brilliant coloratura, subdued legato, excellent breath control, and more,” Mr. Baril says. “In addition, Violetta is almost continually on stage, acting and singing for nearly two and a half hours, so the part takes stamina as well as dramatic and vocal talent. You can only program Traviata if you have a strong, vocally mature Violetta–and we’re lucky enough to have two,” he adds.
“La Traviata is difficult to cast, particularly in the case of young singers,” says Doris Yarick-Cross, professor of voice and artistic director of Yale Opera. “We chose it because, as it happens, we have the resources.”
Ms. Borg played Giulietta in Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi,” as well as Giannetta in Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore,” and Ms. Trustman sang both Marguerite in Gounod’s “Faust” and the Mother in Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” in the “Opera Scenes” production by Yale Opera.
“It’s exciting to be able to do Violetta,” says Ms. Trustman, a second year student at the School of Music and former lead singer with the Nevada Opera. “From the first to the last note, this is gorgeous music. And this will be a real vocal challenge. Even the opening aria offers a complete calisthenic workout for the voice.”
As for the earnest, impassioned young Alfredo, the part requires a lyric tenor voice with glints of drama towards the top notes. Chad Shelton and Pablo Veguilla will alternate in the part. Mr. Shelton was featured as Nemorino in “L’elisir d’amore,” and Mr. Veguilla played Faust in the Gounod scene and Bardolfo in Verdi’s “Falstaff.”
The leading baritone role in Traviata is Giorgio Germont, father of Alfredo. “Verdi pushed the baritone voice to a new, more intense level in opera,” Mr. Baril explains. “The role demands a larger voice with a wide range and depth and considerable power and strength at the top.” The part will be shared by Galen Bower and Robert Gardner.
Professor Yarick-Cross adds, “One always looks for the right opportunity to produce Traviata because it is so appealing and touching. There’s no question but that it’s an audience-builder.”
Yale Opera Program’s 16 students pursue an intensive two-year program under the aegis of the School of Music, working closely with opera coaches and voice teachers. Each student accepted to the program is assured a major role in the fall “Opera Scenes” and the Spring Semester full-length operas. In addition, the students take part in performances throughout the year with companies as diverse as the Hartford Symphony and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. In December, Yale Opera performed “Hansel and Gretel” with the Waterbury Symphony. Alumni of the program have gone on to roles in opera companies around the world.
“Yale Opera,” explains Robert Blocker, dean of the Yale School of Music, “is New Haven’s only locally produced opera company, and we are pleased to serve the community with talents that can offer such a moving and dramatic production as La Traviata.”
Yale Opera will present Gioacchino Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” on April 25 and 26 in Sprague Memorial Hall. This final production of the year will provide lead roles to students who are not showcased in “La Traviata.”