Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – One of the classic operatic love stories of all time, Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’, will premiere tonight (Friday, February 3) at 8 p.m.
The first full-scale performance of the Painted Sky Opera is an aural and visual delight – a magnificent capstone for the brand new professional company in its first season of operations. The Civic Center (Little Freede Theatre) venue is well-suited to the scale and story-telling goals of this production.
Nicole Van Every is beautiful and magnificent of voice in the lead role of Violetta, a Parisian courtesan of the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Despite her experience in worldly ways, she is drawn to true love in the arms of Alfredo (Samuel Schlievert) when they meet at a party she hosts in her home.
Thinking herself immune from the need for one male companion, for life, she nonetheless succumbs to his passionate entreaties. She gives him a flower and asks him to return the next day (as the flower begins to fade). He does so and the nascent lovers agree to set up housekeeping in the countryside.
Violetta’s faithful maid-servant, Annina (Hayley Grigg) sells Violetta’s belongings to assure the new couple have sufficient resources. This concerns Alfredo, who hopes to find ways to avoid such a financial sacrifice by his beloved.
Germont (Tom Sitzler) – Alfredo’s father – enters the picture. He visits Violetta to beg her to end her affair with Alfredo because her social status is preventing Germont’s daughter (Alfredo’s sister) from social acceptance and a proper marriage. Thus, does the plot thicken.
Wracked with concern and recognition of her past, Violetta pulls away from her man, thinking it best for his sake. No more spoilers, but this decision triggers events that lead to heart-ache and sadness for all, even for critics of Violetta’s past life.
Van Every excels in every category as the tragic beauty, Schlievert is her equal in the male lead. Sitzler as Germont makes us believe the interfering father had his son’s best interests at heart — yet proves himself deeply sympathetic to the decency at the core of Violetta’s soul. Grigg is deeply sympathetic and effective as symbol of that bygone era during which loyal servants found their joy in supporting the lives of their employers.
Beyond these players, JinYoung Kwon (as Flora) is a deft friend and supporter to Every’s Violetta.
Rounding out named performers, in superb moments of sung dialogue and finely animated sketches, are Leslie John Flanagan (Marchese d’Obigny), Kevin Eckard (Doctor Grenvil), Gray Leiper (Barone Douphol), Ryan Allais (Giuseppe), and Zachary DeVault (as the ‘commissionario’ and a domestic servant).
Glorious harmonies emerge from the ensemble of performers, including Jessica Adkins, Mary McDowell, Megan Billings, Christine Ebeling, Jessica Fritts, Christopher Heron, Alonzo Jordan and Alexandria Skinner.
Each player is nicely adorned with lovely costumes designed and constructed by Becky McGuigan.
The stage of the Freede Little Theatre is well-lit and properly shaded through the work designer Scott Hynes.
Other vital technical functions are professionally delivered from Rory Behrens (technical design and construction), Megan Perdue (stage manager, Joe Fitzgerald (assistant music director and orchestra conductor), Donegan Moore (wardrobe coordination), Jenna Perdue and Jill Burcham (crew), Michael Adkins and Teresa Swallow (spots), and Danielle Herrington.
Conductor McDaniel blends nicely the talents of the orchestra, consisting of Elizabeth Venegas, Austin Rice, Danielle Petersen, Jose Batty, Scotty Scott, Jill Coker, Jeremy Sheets, David Lee and Solveig Hendryz (the varied strings), blended beautifully with Kristen Swartly (flute), Crystal Haith (oboe) Dillan Francis (clarinet), Anna Resnick (bassoon), Horns by James Doss and Adam Cain, Darren Heath Timpani), and the steady percussion of Alex McDaniel.
Plan on a full evening – in three acts (the finale the shortest) the entire opera is presented, in a little more than two and a half hours run time, with two intermissions.
After this evening’s performance, the final production will be Sunday (Feb. 5) at 2 p.m. For all who desire a break from pre-Super Bowl mania, and/or for anyone who has not yet enjoyed the beauty and resonance of true Opera, the place to be is one or another of this weekend’s great Painted Sky production of one of the world’s most beloved stories, ‘La Traviata.’
Barbara DeMaio, co-founder of Painted Sky who is an acclaimed soprano with years of experience) did the English supertitles for the Italian words of the performers. Her colleague Rob Glaubitz delivers, as director of the production, a well-crafted show with maximum skill and respect for opera traditions.
A brief pre-performance discussion about the show will take place outside the theatre at 1:30 p.m., DeMaio said in an interview.
The City Sentinel proudly supports the arts in general, and Painted Sky Opera in particular.