Peabody Opera Theatre presents
by Giuseppe Verdi
libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
after the play La dame aux camélias
by Alexandre Dumas, fils
Peabody Concert Orchestra
Hajime Teri Murai, music director
Garnett Bruce, stage director
Luke Hegel-Cantarella, production designer
Douglas Nelson, lighting designer
Eileen Cornett, musical preparation
Production sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Allan D. Jensen
Wednesday–Saturday March 11–14 2009, at 7:30 PM
Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall
Peabody Conservatory of Music
1 East Mt. Vernon Place
Admission $25 / Seniors $15 / Students with ID $10
Box Office: 410/659-8100 x4415, or
I do not draw the conclusion that all women of Marguerite’s sort are capable of behaving as she did. Far from it. But I have learned that one such woman, once in her life, experienced deep love, that she suffered for it and that she died of it. I have told the reader what I learned. It was a duty. I am not an advocate of vice, but I shall always be a sounding board for any noble heart in adversity wherever I hear its voice raised in prayer.
[Trans: D. Coward, 1986.]
|Violetta, Milan 1855|
Many singers have commented that Verdi demands three different vocal approaches for Violetta: the shimmering bel-canto coloratura for Act I, an honest dramatic approach for Act II, and ultimately a heart-breaking lyricism for Act III. We have the unique opportunity at Peabody to feature a different soprano for each of these acts — allowing more students the opportunities to study and perform this role, as well as protecting young voices from exhaustion at the naissance of their careers. I find the dramatic subject matter and the shrewd vocal writing an excellent test of talent for singers in their mid-twenties. Now, we have the time to help each student scale a vocal masterpiece over the course of a long process, monitored and mentored by our faculty, allowing significant orchestral rehearsal time for a cornerstone of the standard operatic repertory.
|Views of the set model by Luke Hegel-Cantarella|
Act I Violetta is the life of the party, a party paid for by Baron Douphol. He has covered all her expenses: the lavish apartment, her coaches, her servants, her doctor. He has showered her with the finest jewels, the finest clothes, putting her very much on display for Parisian society. On display, down to her signature accessory, the white camellia she wears, winter or summer, as the sign of her readiness for love. Alfredo, however, recognizes the angel within. Perhaps his naiveté is to blame, but it is more than that: two honest souls connecting on a level different from the world that the courtesan has known.
By Act II, Violetta is transformed into a joyful, almost angelic figure; Alfredo calls their country home a Heaven on earth. While Alfredo is out, his father Giorgio Germont interrupts Violetta’s idyllic vacation from Parisian society to demand that this stain on the family name (his son living out of wedlock with a notorious courtesan) be purged. Violetta sacrifices her happiness by agreeing to abandon Alfredo for the good of his family. But Alfredo knows nothing of Violetta’s agreement, and subjects her to a public humiliation so contemptible that Parisian society rises to defend her, if only briefly.
By Act III, on the last day of her life, Violetta has been defeated by her illness. She is indeed sola e abbandonata (alone and abandoned) — a phrase borrowed from Abbé Prévost’s Manon Lescaut. Violetta uses those words in mock tragedy in Act I. But in the face of that ultimate penalty for her sins — an anonymous death — Violetta rises from her illness to accept herself, her fate, and her life. In this context, the fierce father figure in Giorgio Germont at last comes to understand her nobility, and the true love he denied her by demanding the end of her relationship with Alfredo.
Opera is an art of extreme emotion. Verdi’s emotional landscape is as vivid, as honest, as pure as any score of the Nineteenth Century, placing us on the bridge between bel canto at the start of the century and verismo at the end of it. He captivates his audience by framing the glaring injustice and hypocrisy of his era between personal and public — delicate melody and stirring drama. At the prelude, he begins with the faintest glimmer of pianissimo, forcing his listener to work even to hear the first theme, Alfredo’s “Di quell’ amor.” At the end of Violetta’s Act III aria, Verdi writes for un fil di voce (a thread of voice) — an effect that almost seems to transport Violetta into the realm of the ethereal. These extreme silences are balanced by great climaxes of dramatic singing as well. Emotional intensity builds and bursts, and, in the best Romantic traditions, even gallops with a fervor that lifts the notes off the page and sears them into our memories. But now it is not the applause-stirring moment that matters so much as the dramatic idea; Verdi often directs us to take the moment to reflect, in the silence that composer and performer both create. Verdi has designed La traviata to seduce with its personal tragedy, while challenging prevailing social injustice with a drama of operatic proportions.
— Garnett Bruce.
* Cast performing Wednesday 11 and Friday 13 March
** Cast performing Thursday 12 and Saturday 14 March
Pausing the cursor over singers’ names will show some previous roles
|Violetta Valéry I||** Eun Hae Cho
* Jennifer Holbrook
|Violetta Valéry II||* Beth Stewart
** Katherine Woodward
|Violetta Valéry III||* Eun Hae Ju
** Jihee Kim
|Flora Bervoix||** Elizabeth Dow
* Yoonjee Ha
|Annina||** Yun Kyong Lee
* Diane Schaming
|Alfredo Germont||* William Davenport
** Raymond Diaz
|Giorgio Germont||* Eun Seo Koo
** Doug Peters
|Gastone, Vicomte de Letorières||* David Kirkwood
** Ben Shaver
|Baron Douphol||** Jeremy Osborne
* William Schaller
|Marquis d'Obigny||** Byong Gak Jeon
* Jeffrey Williams
|Doctor Grenvil||* Benjamin Moore
** Peter Tomaszewski