I was in just about a perfect mood for a concert last night…especially the concert I went to. I’d been in a terribly rare good mood since receiving some intriguing news earlier in the day, and felt like celebrating. How better than inside the posh walls of the National Arts Centre for a swanky evening at the Opera? Yes, I continue to stretch my shaky media credential to the breaking point by somehow getting tagged for all these amazing Opera Lyra events, and I couldn’t be more delighted. My first go-round with Ottawa’s premiere opera troupe was at the amazing LA BOHEME a few months back, and they’re back this week with a staged concert performance of Verdi’s classic LA TRAVIATA, meaning I would double my opera knowledge in a single evening!
Now, as mentioned, this was technically a concert and not a fully staged production with costumes and sets and such. Instead, the pared-down evening (if you can call the entire NAC Orchestra piled onto the stage at Southam Hall with some 30-odd chorus members plus the main singers ‘pared down’) concentrated on just the music, and what marvellous music it was. After a bit of a speech from Laurence Wall, whose voice even I recognized from the CBC, the impressive sight of the collected NAC Orchestra was joined onstage by some splendidly suited-up ladies and gents, Lyra’s cast for the production wearing their Sunday finest. They soon teamed up to belt out a pretty goddamned unforgettable evening of deep-throated, glass-shattering tunes that echo right in your heart.
The plot, one of I believe three Opera plots in existence, centers around young and vivacious Violetta Valery, portrayed in this show by the absolutely stunning Corinne Winters. She’s dedicated herself to living the carefree life as you only can in Moulin Rouge-era Paris, lounging about throwing fabulous parties with her best girlfriend Flora (Marion Newman). But one shindig, while lounging about with the Marquis (Benjamin Covey) and the Baron (Jonathon Estabrooks), a gent named Gastone (Niels Achengreen) introduces Violetta to idealistic young Adolfo (Eric Margiore), who has been head over heels in love with Violetta from afar for ages now. Romance ensues after much prodding and singing, and the pair run off together. But they’re tracked down by Adolfo’s worried Father Giorgio (Gregory Dahl), who wants Violetta to give his son up lest his reputation be destroyed. And Violetta’s got a rather grim little secret she’s been keeping, too…
Things get highly dramatic to say the least, and the cast pulls it off in such glorious fashion I’m almost heartbroken that this was NOT a full production, though I can’t see it getting much better anyhow. Corrine Winters is freakin’ divine as the radiant but tragic Violetta, and Eric Margiore makes for a smashing romantic leading man…their duets are a sight to see, and a privilege to hear. Although I have to say that, for me, Gregory Dahl’s booming Giorgio nearly stole the show…such a great character! And the lot of them had me pretty much in tears by the end, even IF everyone in the room already knew how things were gonna turn out. It was a gorgeous night, and only one performance remains tomorrow night, the 23rd. HIGHLY recommend getting out to see it…and fear not, Opera Lyra will be back with two full productions next season, putting on CARMEN and MADAMA BUTTERFLY for your listening pleasure. I can definitely say I’m gonna try and make it out. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)
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