Glimmerglass Festival 2019 Review: La Traviata

Adrian Timpau Shines Bright In Fantastic Production That Features Amanda woodbury & Kang Wang

By Matt Costello
(Credit: Carli Kadel)

I have learned that — outside the cultural mecca of Manhattan, in summer — amazing operatic performances can be found in what might be regarded as unlikely places. And my recent weekend in upstate New York confirmed that once again.

I first experienced this with the new production at Glimmerglass of Verdi’s mid-career masterpiece, “La Traviata.”

Revisiting a Masterpiece

While undoubtedly more than worthy of the title of masterpiece, of the three operas often viewed as the operatic equivalent of a grand slam home run (sorry…the baseball Hall of fame was mere minutes away) I always preferred the wilder plots and often boldly rambunctious music of “Il Trovatore” and “Rigoletto.”

But there is no doubt in “La Traviata” — the endless outpouring of melody after melody, and one brilliant musical effect after the other — makes the piece a wonder to hear. Not having seen the opera for a number of years, I did find myself thinking just how much of it must have influenced another masterpiece, “La Bohème.”

From the consumptive heroine to the inevitably doomed lovers, with the mix of the giddy and the deeply emotional (and even the Parisian setting), “La Traviata” must have been in the great Puccini’s mind a lot as he shaped his own opera of love and death.

Glimmerglass, for those who have not visited, is remarkable for not only the quality of its productions, but the ambition it shows with new works, commissions, and a robust educational program. And this “Traviata,” directed by Francesca Zambello, the festival’s Artistic and General Director  – though quite traditional, did not disappoint.

Never Disappointing

From the prelude, opening in a sanitarium with Violetta at the place where she would end her days, the staging was crisp and effective, using towering panels to shift from Violetta’s Paris salon to the retreat where she will try to make a life with her lover, Alfredo Germont.

Verdi wrote this opera as a showcase for Violetta; it is her opera and anyone stepping into the role will need to fully capture this courtesan who will entrance Alfredo, along with many others.

In this production, that Violetta was Amanda Woodbury. And since the role is a marathon, with the demands of the role major, everyone in the audience had to be listening — and evaluating.

But no worries; Woodbury’s voice, if anything, grew and bloomed during the opera, making the absolute most of the powerful arias such as “Sempra Libera,” Violetta’s fierce testament, as well as her duets with the Alfredo, Kang Wang.

The opera also makes major demands on the tenor role, and Kang Wang navigated those challenges with a steady voice and convincing acting.

The supporting cast, including chorus and dancers, were all perfect; but of special note is the Giorgio Germont of Adrian Timpau.

Special Note

In Giuseppi Baldini’s seminal book on Verdi, the author makes the thesis, quite obvious when one thinks about it, that all of Verdi’s opera are about the familial interplay of the four voices: soprano, tenor, bass…and baritone.

And of course, as so often in Verdi, the fatherly baritone voice often acts as a block to the romantically (often doomed) linked tenor and soprano. And does Alfredo’s father ever do that in this opera, essentially convincing Violetta to leave his son.

Adrian Timpau is a powerful presence in this key role, perfectly generating the fierceness and ultimately a compassion that is core to Germont, with some absolutely beautiful singing, most notably in the aria “Di Provenza il mar, il siol.”

The entire supporting cast made the most of their individual moments as well as the massed choral sections, thrilling the audience with those magical musical effects that Verdi seems able to pull out of thin air. The orchestra, ably led by Joseph Colaneri, made the most of them.

This production was everything one could hope for in revisiting this seminal opera.


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