Brooklyn’s Regina Opera company has kicked off its 2017-18 season with Verdi’s timeless “La Traviata.” As befitting a company entering its 48th season, its knowledge and execution of the work well-reflected the experience of the cast and crew.
The rather-limited stage of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy was used to great effect as the faces flooded on and off as needed. Moments of privacy or intimacy felt as such, whereas party scenes felt sufficiently crowded without becoming an obstacle always maintaining the focus; in an opera centered on the distinction between the public and private lives, this in itself holds great influence.
A Convincing Cast
In the role of Violetta, Christina Rohm displayed not only a refined vocal technique but a fluency in body language. At one moment beaming with life particularly at the beginning of the opera and at the next demurring, she delivered well the charm of a courtesan. This made for a striking transition as the opera progressed along with Violetta’s illness; by the end, she was a ghost of her former self and her slow but sure deterioration was palpable. Vocally Rohm was vibrant as she pulled off “Sempre Libera” with bright coloratura and vocal fireworks and her “Addio del Passato” expressed the delicacy of an ill Violetta.
Thomas Massey’s Alfredo was a breath of fresh air for me, having become accustomed to seeing older actors taking on the role. Massey embodied the youthful vulnerability of the character, and because of this, it did not feel overplayed when Alfredo fell apart after receiving Violetta’s farewell letter or when he storms the party of Act II in rejected anger. This was displayed in his voice as began the performance with a refined and youthful quality before showcasing a forceful timbre in the second act in particular in the section “Ogni suo aver tal femmina.”
A surprise favorite of mine and the audience came from Scott Lefurgy in the role of Giorgio Germont. With his stern presence and rich voice, he convincingly played the disapproving father. While he initially struck me as inexpressive, I came to see him as the face of the rigid social conventions that demand Alfredo and Violetta be apart. Even then, he was not immune to sympathy as he came to be touched by the reality of their love. In his aria “Di provenza il mar, il suol,” Lefurgy was touching singing with an expressive sound. It was one of the highlights of the evening.
While the production itself was not large in scale, it was finely honed thanks to the talented cast. As the lone gypsy dancer, Wendy Chu made full use of the stage as she gracefully whirled about. With her articulate form, she drove the percussive beat, striking her tambourine with her hands and even her feet as a result of well-timed kicks. She had a strong counterpoint in Kelly Vaghenas as the single matador dancer, whose fierce spins and cape flourishes made them quite the pair.
The set design and changes, headed by Linda Lehr, were utilized to great effect, though this required breaking the opera into four diverse sets. It was well worth it to see the stark change from the pageantry of Act II Scene II in Flora’s salon to the evanescence of Violetta’s bedroom in Act III. Dismissed servants carried out furniture and took their leave in spite of the words caught in their throats. Walls were bare that once held enormous frames, curtains were touched by smoke, and the mirror in the corner was cracked; at the center of it all was the Rohm, who was very much the fading soul of the room as she lied in bed.
Overall this was tender and emotional evening that lovers of opera will not want to miss.