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Opera de Quebec is slowly beginning to change direction in how it stages Romantic opera. After a very contemporary Nabucco, its latest La traviata offered a complete change in direction from when it last appeared in 2012. This new mounting was conceived--sets, costumes, and staging--by a Quebecois team for The Icelandic Opera in Reykjavik where it premiered with a different cast last March.

For this Traviata (seen Oct. 19th), Simon Guilbault eliminated the traditional, luxurious decor of an elegant 19,h-century Parisian salon. In its place, on stage right, we saw a screen in the shape of a huge column covered with large scales, magically transformed throughout with projections--in Act III for example, it became an enormous lace-covered bed canopy. Stage left were large, stylized, Art Deco-inspired leaf designs. In Act II's party scene at Flora's, shimmering projections suggested a casino games room. Violetta and Alfredo's country home was given a 1930s setting that surprised and amused with its spa, chaise lounge chairs, and parasols. Oversize projections of Violetta were integrated into the decor.

Sebastien Dionne's costumes were timeless: Violetta and Flora were dressed in beautiful 'period' gowns, but slit to the waist, allowing us to see their lingerie and thighs to remind us that they work in the 'worlds oldest profession.' Surrounding them were an entourage of men, women, and non-binary hangers-on scantily dressed and made up of a mixture of chorus and dancers. All of this had the taste of the Belle Epoque, the Moulin-Rouge and as well, the debauched Pigalle. You either like it or you don't.

Quebecois-Catalan director Oriol Tomas knew how to transport us to the very heart of Violetta and Alfredo's love story. After all, what is really important beyond the sets and costumes is the passion of these two beings against all odds--Violetta's immense sacrifice, Alfredo's despair and rage believing he has been betrayed, and the moving death of the heroine.

This was Marrianne Fiset's role debut as Violetta, performed at home on the stage where she debuted as a student at the Conservatoire de Quebec. At the beginning of Act I she seemed a bit frozen in her slit dress, and had difficulty identifying as a courtesan making a living off her charms. Vocally, one would have liked for her to be more brilliant and more invested in her character here. However, she sang"Sempre libera" and the rest of Act Is conclusion with vigour and agility. Fiset's sensibility and musicality--her two strongest assets--allowed her to express Violetta's feelings of love, strength, and fragility throughout the final two acts. She took risks to achieve vocal nuances of extreme delicacy, especially in "Ah fors'e lui," "Addio del passato," and the sublime pianissimo of "Ah! dite alia giovine."

The young tenor Rocco Rupolo played a very credible and Romantic Alfredo. His voice has a light timbre that still carries, with solid high notes sometimes delivered with a hint of reserve. His engagment with the character was strong in Act II's scenes of anger as well as in the love duets. A tenor to follow.

Baritone Gregory Dahl, a valuable asset at Opera de Quebec, seemed more at home as Giorgio Germont than in the tide role of The Flying Dutchman, which he sang here last summer. Always in control of his instrument, he presented himself in turn as authoritarian in the manner of the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, persuasive ("Pura siccome un angelo"), and conciliatory ("Di Provenza, il mar").

Of the rest of the cast, the greatest impression was made by the energetic tenor Dominique Lorange (Gaston), the solid baritone of Dominic Veilleux (Marquis d'Aubigny), bass Marcel Beaulieu (Docteur Grenvil), and the charming soprano Marie-Michele Roberge (Annina). Mezzo-soprano Caroline Gelinas was very at ease on stage, but vocally sounded a bit colourless and her sound didn't project.

The Chorus as prepared by Real Toupin was dazzling, often mingling with the dancers seamlessly, especially during the Act I bacchanale and Act II's Spanish dances.

The Spanish maestro Pedro Hallfter Caro was a lovely discovery. He communicated his ideas with fluidity and passion. In his enthusiasm however, he sometimes pushed the tempi to their limits, especially in Act I, leaving the singers breathless. --Irene Brisson (trans, by Gianmarco Segato)

Caption: Marianne Fiset (Violetta) & Rocco Rupolo (Alfredo) in Opera de Quebec's La traviata
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Author:Brisson, Irene
Publication:Opera Canada
Article Type:Opera review
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:Dec 22, 2019
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