ATLANTA OPERA capped its thirty-ninth season with Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, presented at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in a lavish co-production with Seattle Opera, Washington National Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival and Indiana University (seen May 3). A triumvirate of important artists—director Francesca Zambello and designers Peter Davison and Jess Goldstein—collaborated to reimagine Violetta Valéry’s tragic demise.
Scenic designer Davison accomplished both visual splendor and functional efficiency with almost twenty hulking, triangular prisms that rotated, transforming Violetta’s elegant salon to a stark hospital or a charming country house. Goldstein’s thoughtful costume design updated Violetta’s story to the belle époque and conveyed the glamourous side of Paris’s demi-monde.
Zambello utilized the reverse musical narrative of the prelude to show a pantomime of the courtesan’s final hours. This foreshadowing came to an abrupt halt as the periaktoi pivoted, Czech soprano Zuzana Marková shed her hospital gown, and a crowd of jubilant party goers appeared. Dressed in a simple gown inspired by John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X, Marková sang the brindisi with refinement, offering a portrayal of a kind, charming Violetta. Marková, a mesmerizing singer and actress, has sung leading roles throughout Europe and made her American debut in this Atlanta production.
Marková’s Alfredo, Guatemalan tenor Mario Chang, matched her in vocal beauty, but reserved his vocal power until after intermission. Flora’s party replete with dancing Gypsy girls and loping matadors choreographed by Parker Esse, created terrific visual interest leading up to the conflict that ensued between Alfredo and Violetta. Cued up by a dramatic shift in lighting by Mark McCullough, the mood quickly darkened and the chorus ladies’s red satin gowns were morbidly transformed.
Baritone Fabian Veloz made his Atlanta Opera debut in the role of Giorgio Germont. His sizable presence and voice were impressive, yet his onstage persona lacking. Sadly, the grand duet that he shared with Violetta was uninspiring and the staging static. AO music director Arthur Fagen brought out the best in the Atlanta Opera Orchestra, delivering a crisp, untroubled interpretation. —Stephanie Adrian