La Traviata

After its sensational opening weeks, which offered much and promised even more in the way of enlightened, innovative opera production, the local company returned to the old business-as-usual. First seen in February 1999, its creaky, quirky "La Traviata" only sporadically honored the sad sorrowings of Verdi's near-perfect musical drama.

With:
Violetta - Ana Maria Martinez
Alfredo - Rolando Villazon
Germont - Jorge Lagunes
Flora - Suzanna Guzman

After its sensational opening weeks, which offered much and promised even more in the way of enlightened, innovative opera production, the local company returned to the old business-as-usual. First seen in February 1999 (and not exactly beloved then), its creaky, quirky “La Traviata” only sporadically honored the sad sorrowings of Verdi’s near-perfect musical drama.

Again there was the willful, gimmick-ridden staging of Marta Domingo, with principal singers cavorting athletically around Giovanni Agostinucci’s stifling, resolutely retro set designs. Again there were the traditional cuts inflicted onto Verdi’s marvelously compact and shapely score — with just one-half of Alfredo’s act two cabaletta restored from the 1999 excisions. From the podium there was the decent competence of Placido Domingo’s leadership, but one sorely missed the elegant lyrical impulse he had once brought to this opera as its leading tenor.

Instead there was the squally, unfocussed Alfredo of Rolando Villazon, whose stage manner furthermore constituted a virtual parody of a scenery-chewing superstar of the old school. Ana Maria Martinez was the Violetta, her voice nicely colored by the role’s tragic overtones but undercut by a tendency to push sustained notes toward sharpness. As the burly, harsh-voiced Papa Germont, Jorge Lagunes wielded his cane like a drum major’s baton and seemed poised at any moment to thrash Violetta senseless.

As before, the biggest hand went not to any of the above but to the blinding bordello-red of Flora’s party scene. Peggy Hickey’s toreador ballet in that scene got a pretty good hand, too. At least nobody fell down.

La Traviata

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center; 3,098 seats; top ticket $165

Production: A Los Angeles Opera presentation of the Giuseppe Verdi opera in three acts; libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after Alexandre Dumas' "La dame aux camelias." Conductor, Placido Domingo with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Creative: Conception and direction, Marta Domingo; designer, Giovanni Agostinucci; choreographer, Peggy Hickey. Opened and reviewed, Oct. 19, 2001; runs through Nov. 10. Running time: 3 HOURS.

Cast: Violetta - Ana Maria Martinez
Alfredo - Rolando Villazon
Germont - Jorge Lagunes
Flora - Suzanna Guzman
With: Jessica Rivera, Greg Fedderly, James Cresswell, Pablo Porras, Louis Lebherz, Daniel Chaney, Tim Smith, Arthur Wand.

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