The Santa Fe Opera 2024 Season

The Santa Fe Opera 2024 Season

Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata”  

Imagine you’re living in Europe in the nineteenth century. One of your great idols would undoubtedly be the composer Giuseppe Verdi. (1813 – 1901)   He was, in his time, as well known and popular as Elvis Presley and the Beatles combined. Verdi’s funeral in January 1901 drew over 300,000 people into the streets of Milano, many singing the beloved chorus of the Hebrew slaves from his opera Nabucco.

Verdi was incredibly prolific, writing twenty-six operas, the last of which, Aida was performed when the composer was over eighty. La Traviata, which opens the Santa Fe Opera’s 2024 season, is arguably one of the most popular works in the operatic repertory – and rightly so. Its seductive story line, and haunting arias have become fixed in the heart of opera lovers world wide.

At the time, La Traviata, (roughly translated as “The Wayward Woman”), was considered somewhat controversial.  After all, a story based on a prostitute who transforms herself into a wealthy courtesan sought after by a young nobleman of good breeding offended the sensibilities and etiquette of a sizeable number of the European elite.  Consequently, the opera management at La Fenice in Venice thought it best to stage the setting of the opera’s debut in the early years of King Louis XIII, around 1622.

La Traviata’s first performance didn’t go well, probably due to bad casting. But in later productions, with more capable singers and a lusty, scandalous storyline, the opera enjoyed and continues to enjoy universal acclaim.

This season’s Santa Fe Opera production of La Traviata does not disappoint. In fact, for Verdi aficionados, this is a must see production.  Armenian soprano, Mane Galoyan is riveting in the lead role as the dying courtesan Violetta.  Her delicate pianissimo’s and sustained vocal lines sound almost angelic, reminding me of my all time favorite Violetta, the late Spanish soprano, Pilar Lorengar.

But Galoyan also possesses a hefty vocal strength while still managing to retain her enchanting melodic tone.  As such, she frequently overpowered her male counterpart, Alfredo, sung by Uzbekistan tenor, Bekhzod Davronov, whose journeyman’s performance seemed, at times a bit timid and understated. Granted, this was a full dress rehearsal, where the vocalists frequently do not sing in full voice, however the emotional quality of Davronov’s singing did appear somewhat shallow.

Baritone Carlos Arambula was originally cast as Alfredo’s father; however, at the last moment, citing “personal reasons,” he withdrew. He was replaced by Mexican bass Alfredo Daza, (who will sing the part of Dulcamara in this season’s production of Donizetti’s, Elixer of Love). Daza’s voice delivered rich, full bodied tones which were well suited to the part of Alfredo’s distraught father, Giorgio in his attempt to convince Violetta to abandon her relationship with his love sick son.

La Traviata takes place in three settings: Violetta’s Salon, Violetta and Alfredo’s Country home, and finally, in Violetta’s bedroom where she dies of tuberculosis.  Stage Director Louisa Miller and scenery and costume designer Christopher Oram, along with lighting designer Marcus Doshi have done a marvelous job.  Utilizing a turntable stage that moves effortlessly from one act to another, each scene is imbued with flamboyant costumes, together with the décor of a posh Parisian salon, along with a rustic country house and a faded yet elegant boudoir.

The Santa Fe Opera’s apprentice singers were in fine form. They sang with gusto, while retaining the discipline of a tight vocal ensemble.

I’ve always been impressed with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra comprised of outstanding musicians from leading orchestra’s around the country.  This season is no exception. Under the able baton of maestro Roberto Kalb, the orchestra sounded crisp and lively, the inner instrumental voices were clear and distinctive, and the soft passages were subtle and well phrased; Together with the exceedingly competent vocalists and innovative set design, this was a performance worth remembering.

Opera:  La Traviata
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Performance Time:  Under Two hours with one intermission
Performance Dates: July 6th, 12th, 19th  (at 8:30 pm); August 1st, 5th, 10th, 17th, 20th, and 24th.
Tickets: $43 – $415
Contact: santafeopera.org  /  505-986-5900

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