La Traviata delivers drama

Violetta, played by Anna Sumuil, is surrounded by her admirers in Verdi’s La Traviata. (credit: Courtesy of David Bachman) Violetta, played by Anna Sumuil, is surrounded by her admirers in Verdi’s La Traviata. (credit: Courtesy of David Bachman)

Audiences expect tragic operas to be dramatic, elaborate, and highly emotional. The Pittsburgh Opera’s performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, stage-directed by Crystal Manich with music director Antony Walker, delivered magnificently in all these respects.

The story of La Traviata follows Violetta, a Parisian courtesan who falls in love with a well-to-do young man, Alfredo. Although they love each other, they are forced apart because of their class differences; the couple is eventually reunited, only for them to meet a tragic end.

Moments before the show began, first-year vocal performance major Taylor Rawley said, “I’m very hopeful; I’ve heard good things. I like opera because it is an elevated art form.”

La Traviata lived up to these expectations — the opera used several art forms to deliver an experience that the audience will not soon forget. The set design, costumes, acting, music, singing, dancing, and lighting came together to captivate the audience and make the show a true success.

Anna Sumuil, who played the role of Violetta, was a delight. Her pleasant voice and articulate body language enhanced the production, drawing the audience in.

The costumes and set design by Desmond Heely took the performance to the highest possible level. With the opera taking place in France during a highly decadent time period, one has certain expectations of its aesthetics, and the design certainly lived up to those expectations. The costumes were marvelously designed — even the minor characters seemed distinct from one another.

Despite the story’s tragic ending, it also had several absurdist aspects, like the idea that “wine will banish every care,” which kept the mood from becoming too heavy.

Opera is an art type that one might envision as being highly exclusive, serving a specific crowd. But Deb Bell, the director of marketing and communications for the Benedum Center, who has worked in the industry for decades, disagrees. “Audiences have changed,” she said. “Tonight you saw people who were making fashion statements, where before you had people [wearing] just one mold of an outfit.” While there was the expected crowd of professionals in the audience, there was also a good number of young adults present, with outfits ranging from cocktail dresses and suits to good old blue jeans.

The production of La Traviata at the Benedum Center was a pleasure and delight. It was a huge success; the large and varied turnout served as a testament to the quality of the performance. An elevated art form, indeed.