Opera Carolina 2022-23 Review: La Traviata

By Afton Wooten

Opera Carolina closed its 2022-23 season with a fantastic production of Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

At the rise of the curtain, the audience was transported to 19th-century Paris. Ercole Sormani’s intricate set design was outstanding. The detailed paintings on the multi-layered drapes showed the characteristics of a lavish parlor and countryside home; this mixed with Michael Baumgarten’s life-like light design created a cohesive and captivating set.

As “La Traviata” has not graced the Opera Carolina stage since 2016 director Sam Mungo had two options for this piece – to surprise the audience with a new take or keep with the classics. He chose the latter. He didn’t take any modern twists or stray from what is commonly known about this opera, but it worked well as the audience turnout and applause made it clear.

Violetta the Heroine

It was announced before the start of the show, that leading lady Melinda Whittington was under the weather, but planned to sing. After experiencing this performance, I wonder if it even should have been mentioned. Whittington gave a smart and inspiring performance.

Without knowing of her illness, I may have examined the performance differently. I was even a little nervous for her knowing the vocal demands Violetta has right out of the gate. This prior knowledge made me aware of her attention to technique. Whittington’s trust and use of her technical skill were impressive. She was fully engaged with her voice while simultaneously displaying the range of Violetta’s emotions with ease. She is quite a multi-tasker.

Starting off Whittington seemed to be pacing herself, though it did not take long for her glittering high notes to shine through in “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici.” Here, it was evident she was thinking technically about each note and phrase; her characterization did lack here but took little away from the performance due to her glorious sound. Moving on to “Un dì, felice, eterea,” her high A’s were perfectly placed and crisp.

Her “Siempre libera” was solid. She definitely gave it her all, even when “all” was too much under the circumstances. The few slips in this piece did not take her down though. Whittington continued on and showed off the incredible range of colors in her voice. Her lower sultry range and Olympia-like high notes melted together and was stunning.

Father and Son

Hyung Yun’s characterization Giorgio Germont was outstanding. Yun’s ease with the text and modern-day conversation style/candace made for a clearly executed and relatable performance. His timbre and musical choices perfectly matched the charge.

Dominic Armstrong’s classic tenor sound was delightful to listen to. Even before his first note, he was able to grab the audience’s attention with his assured stage presence. “Un di felice, eterea” was by far Armstrong’s best performance of the show. Armstrong was in sync with Alfredo at this moment – his phrasing was gorgeous and timely meshed his feelings of longing, nervousness, and love.

During Act two, as Germont tries to persuade his son into returning home in “Di Provenza il mar, il suol chi dal cor ti cancellò?” and in their duet “Né rispondi d’un padre all’affetto” Armstrong and Hyung Yun matched each other’s characters well. Both singers had the right level of melodrama to make the scenes believable, but also comical at times.


Opera Carolina’s Director of Music Preparation and Conductor Emily Jarrell Urbanek led the orchestra with great care. Every note from the pit was lush, warm, and captivating. Her ability to maintain such a luxurious sound from the pit all while being vigilant to make adjustments for Whittington when needed was seamless.

The cast’s shared determination, artistry, and connection made for an outstanding final performance. Of course, every production be it opera, musical theatre, or straight play aims to have this togetherness, but not all meet the goal. The Opera Carolina team and cast, however, did.


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