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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

It’s a Barnburner

sex, wine, and tuberculosis
sex, wine, and tuberculosis

Dina Kuznetsova steals the show in Verdi’s, La Traviata, performed by the Boston Lyrical Opera. As the courtesan, Violetta Valéry, Kuznetsova moves, sings, and acts with such talent that to define what she does as a performer is tantamount to defining what makes Monet such a great painter. It is impossible to know if Kuznetsova is moving or dancing, singing or speaking, acting or being when she performs. She is beautiful. Her voice is an endless tap. She has brilliant stage presence. Kuznetsova sets the tone of the performance; when Violetta is happy, the audience is happy; when Violetta is sad, the audience is sad. Kuznetsova is humble too; she acquiesces when Violetta is not the center of attention. Best of all, Kuznetsova is entirely convincing; she is Violetta.

La Traviata opens with a string melody that betrays the melancholy of the third and final act. However when the curtains rise, the scene is all riotous bacchanals: Violetta is throwing a party. It is in this scene that we first hear the most recognizable song in the opera, “Brindisi,” a popular drinking song. A flirtatious Violetta meets a somewhat bashful Alfredo (Garrett Sorenson). During the revelry, Violetta falls down. She is sick with tuberculosis, a fatal disease that wastes away at the body. Alfredo is the one who comes to check up on her, while the party rages in the other room. Violetta and Alfredo sing their love for one another. The party ends, the guests sing, “It’s time to sleep so we can be ready for another night like this,” (translation from subtitles), and the curtains fall on the first act.

The set design uses very strong color schemes. For Violetta’s party, the guests all wore black and red (which matched the theater seats and the curtains) the couches and tablecloth were all black and red, and the backdrop tapestry was black and red. In the second act, the set design took a creative leap. It was all white. The backdrop hinted at snow-covered evergreens. The whiteness added a severity to the opera. The set conjures up a sterile hospital, or a house that hasn’t been lived in, the furniture covered in ghostly white cloth. In Act II, Alfredo’s overbearing father, Giorgio (James Westman) reprimands Violetta for running off with his son. Westman has a lovely voice, and a sharp command. Every now and then a smile crept to his lips which only added to his performance. Violetta, in obeisance to Giorgio’s demands, leaves Alfredo, which drives Alfredo mad. He travels to Paris, to Flora’s (Stephanie Chigas) party to confront Violetta. Alfredo embarrasses himself and insults Violetta. Sorenson is a fantastic singer, but he is timid. When Sorenson ought to have been flinging money at Violetta, in an unforgivable act of rudeness, he looks as though he’s paying for groceries. I want to see passion.

It is a testament to the strength of the performers that many of them sit, stand, fall, dance, and lie down, while singing, and projecting. It was really something to see Alfredo, reclined on the couch and singing with ferocity. Violetta spends much of the third act sick, too ill to move, so her arias are delivered from bed. Violetta sends for Alfredo. She wants to forgive him for treating her so wrong. Alfredo arrives just in time to say goodbye to Violetta. Violetta dies and the opera is over. After spending my days scanning the radio stations to hear the latest hip hop loop, listening to arias delivered by such powerful singers is a bubble bath for the brain.