OPERA REVIEW: Panopera’s “La Traviata” at the Academy of Music [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Fred Baumgarten
Panopera’s presentation of La Traviata at the Academy of Music in Northampton straddled the line between professional quality and amateur production. On the strength of some good singing, sincerity, and charm, let’s call it a win.
La Traviata (roughly, “The Fallen One”), arguably Giuseppe Verdi’s most popular opera and certainly his most breezily tuneful, tells the story of a 19th-century Parisian courtesan (Violetta) wooed by an impetuous young man (Alfredo). In love, the duo retire together to a country home, where Violetta is visited by Alfredo’s father (Giorgio Germont).
Germont convinces Violetta that the stain on his family name is too great, and pressures her to sacrifice her love and leave. Violetta agrees, after securing a promise from Germont that after her death – she is in the late stages of tuberculosis – he reveal the real reason for her departure to his son.
Alfredo tracks down Violetta at a party in Paris thrown by her friend (Flora), accompanying the Barone Douphol. In a fit of jealousy, Alfredo challenges Douphol to a duel and insults Violetta, to the disapproval of all the partygoers. In the final act, Alfredo returns to Violetta once more as she nears death. The couple is reunited, Germont expresses remorse for his actions, and Violetta expires.
Panopera is in its fourth year. It is an artist-led company that depends on ads, ticket sales and the dedication of its members for its productions. This is the first season the company will put on two shows, with the musical Sweeney Todd coming in January.
At the Academy, the show got off to a rocky start, with the cello section entering a full measure early in the delicate overture. Conductor Jonathan Hirsh nearly had to bark at the players to get them back on track. Production values were scant. The costumes, a sea of scarlet and black more appropriate for Carmen than Traviata, were tacky. When the company came on stage for the opening party scene, I was transported back to my days as a Gilbert and Sullivan amateur while watching the forced and exaggerated efforts at gaiety.