Opera Grand Rapids “La Traviata”
Story and photos by Mike Gesler
I was first introduced to Giuseppe Verdi’s popular opera, “La Traviata,” many years back. I was working for a company that produced business/industrial films, and doing some post-production editing on a series of films we were producing for Saginaw Steering Gears. Since we were using Mozart within the soundtracks, I was kind of burnt out on “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” but wanted something playing in the background as I worked. The only other music in the studio was “La Traviata.” I was soon captivated, drawn to the true tale of Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis.
If you have the chance this weekend to attend Opera Grand Rapids production of “La Traviata,” I suggest you jump on it. Tickets are sold out, and for very good reason. Director John Hoomes has masterfully taken this tragic story and placed it into the 1920s complete with wonderful Art Nuevo video projection that brilliantly reflects the opulence and self-indulgence that was both upper-class society in nineteenth century Paris and early twentieth century United States. The costuming is spectacular complete with tuxedos and glittering flapper dresses. But the performance given by lead actress, Sarah Joy Miller, will soon have you forgetting about sets, scenics, and costumes as she effortlessly draws the audience into the world of Violette Valery.
Sarah Joy, a soprano Metropolitan Opera star and widely acknowledged as one of the industry’s foremost emerging talents, is joined on stage by another new emerging vocal talent, tenor Zach Borichevsky, who plays Alfredo Germont, the young, impetuous suiter to Violette. Alfredo woos Violette to be his lover and leave her salon in Paris to join him in the country. But when news of the lovers scandal breaks, Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, played by Grand Rapids favorite, baritone Mark Rucker, pays Violette a visit and persuades her to leave Alfredo for the sake of his family. In anger, Alfredo wrongly blames his relationship demise on the Count, and it isn’t until Violette’s death that the truth is revealed.
“La Traviata” is one of, if not, my favorite operas, and, as I am beginning to learn, Opera Grand Rapids does not disappoint. I know the opera, and yet I still found a tear in my eye during the third act. With special permission, my twenty-two year-old daughter accompanied me to the final dress. Having never been to the opera, she didn’t know what to expect. Afterward, I asked her if she enjoyed herself. Her response was better than anything I could write. She looked at me with glowing joy in her eyes, and said, “Wow! That was amazing.”
As I stated, if you receive the opportunity to attend Opera Grand Rapids performance of Verdi’s “La Traviata” this weekend, I recommend you do not let that chance idly slip by. Both shows at the St. Cecilia Music Center on Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15 are sold out. However, Opera Grand Rapids will be performing Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” the first weekend of November, and I am positive that too will be a performance you do not want to miss. I, for one, am really looking forward to that production.
You can see what Opera Grand Rapids has to offer, and purchase tickets, on their website, operagr.org.
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