City Lyric Opera is a female-led company with the goal to make opera affordable, approachable, and available to everyone, and at the same time allow space and place for new up-and-coming performers to have a safe and welcoming venue to strut their stuff. Thus, their slogan: “Where new audiences meet new artists.”
I was at the opening night of La Traviata at the wonderfully intimate Loretto Theater which is part of The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture. The ornate proscenium and small house allow for close proximity between artists and audience and lends itself to what City Lyric Opera is trying to achieve, a close connection between opera and observer.
Art costs a lot, especially opera, with large casts, a full orchestra requirement, and sets and costumes to accentuate the large stories that are told. This in turn limits the time for rehearsal (10 days) and time for performance (only 4 performances) in order to come close for a small company to staying on any kind of budget. But as any artist will tell you, limitations inspire creativity, and creativity and spirit abound in this production with staging, set, and costumes.
Apropos their leadership, they chose to present the classic La Traviata which was composed by Giuseppe Verdi and based on the novel La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas. The plot revolves around the tragic love story of Violetta (Laura Soto-Bayomi), a Parisian courtesan, and Alfredo, a young noble person. Violetta and Alfredo (Colin Aikins) fall in love, but societal pressures and misunderstandings push them apart, setting the stage for a heartbreaking finale. The moral lesson is parents, don’t go messing with your kid’s relationships.
Tying in themes from the novel about patriarchy and morality and how women are treated, the staging reflected that second-class citizenship in book ending Violetta’s death and dismissal as disposable from a society possessing minimal compunction. The beautiful reveal in act one of a dead Violetta who has made the ultimate sacrifice, immediately drew the audience into the story they were about to see. Her life and love choice, subjugating her own desires, draws all the color out of the purity and morality that society espouses.
There was a tremendous amount of youthful energy and exuberance that poured across the lip of the stage from the leads as well as the smaller characters and chorus. The cast is still in or are recent grads of numerous music schools throughout the country and presented that vitality in every scene. The 18-piece orchestra, led by Music Director Michelle Rofrano, was a delight to the ear.
The cast for this production was superb, with each performer bringing a unique talent and energy to the stage. The lead role of Violetta as played by soprano Laura Soto-Bayomi, gave a striking performance and drew the audience in with her powerful voice and emotional acting. Her chemistry with tenor Colin Aikins, who played Alfredo, was palpable, and their duets were some of the highlights of the evening.
Baritone Sejin Park delivered a standout performance as Alfredo’s father, Germont.
The supporting cast was equally impressive, Alexandra Martinez-Turano and Morgan Mastrangelo made their mark in the important but smaller roles. The talented chorus as a whole was exceptional, with their soaring harmonies adding an extra layer of beauty to the already enchanting music.
City Lyric Opera is presenting artistically approachable opera for those of you who may be hesitant, for anyone that may be doubtful if opera could speak to you, affect you, or entertain.
Now playing May 3-6, 2023, Wednesday-Friday, May 3-5, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. + Saturday, May 6, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
Guiseppe Verdi’s La Traviata presented by City Lyric Opera. Music Director Michelle Rofrano and Stage Director R. Lee Kratzer.
Cast: Laura Soto-Bayomi, Colin Aikins, Sejin Park, Rosario Armas, Alexandra Martinez-Turano, Morgan Mastrangelo, Lucas Bouk, Jonathan Harris, Bo Wang, Ramon Gabriel Tenefrancia, John Ford, Madeline Coffey, Juliet Morris, Trysten Reynolds, Maggie Tigue, Olivia Ottinger, Rachelle Pike, Flavia Darcie Cambauva, Fobert Francis Orbach, Joshua LeRose, Daveed Buzaglo, Julio Bettancourt, Kevin Douglas.
Production Stage Manager Terra Warman, Production Manager Edward Mylechreest, Scenic and Properties Design Tyler Herald, Lighting Design Betsy Chester and Stacey Boggs, Costume Design Camilla Dely, Choreography Kellyn Thornburg Mylechreest, Rehearsal Pianists RBrian Wong, Yihao Zhou, Youngmo Na, Hyemin Jeong, Assistant Director Anisa Rose Threlkeld, Assistant Stage Manager Natalie Wagner, Assistant Conductor and Chorus Master Hannah Nacheman.
Orchestra: Concert Master Samuel Grey, Salome Lomidze, Michael Massina, Dominique Valenzuela, Kira Hall, Megan Atchley, Linnea Marchie, Katya Barmotina, Nick Pauly, Anthine Miller, Halie Morris, Ruth Christopher, itzy Nonaka, Elia Foster, Lauren Hallonquist, Alina Echersley, Pierce Yamaoka, Tyler Heferon.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.