Washington Classical Review » Blog Archive » Young singers and conductors impress in Wolf Trap Opera’s ‘Traviata’

Chanáe Curtis and Richard Trey Smagur starred in Verdi La Traviata at Wolf Trap on Friday night.

On Friday night, Wolf Trap Opera presented a performance by Verdi La Traviata which gave new confidence to live opera productions: an utterly traditional staging with excellent soloists and an extraordinary conductor, presented to a full house — with many young people present — under the stars.

In the role of Violetta, Chanáe Curtis proved to be a magnificent singer as well as a convincing actress. Her soprano is a shade too light for Violetta, but her voice grew as the night wore on, and in the last two acts her power was a marvel. Though her portrayal teems with health even when Violetta is mortally ill, Curtis threw herself passionately into Violetta’s plight and made us feel the full weight of her suffering.

Richard Trey Smagur displayed a low tenor like Alfredo who was almost baritone and he sometimes struggled with the music in the upper reaches. Nonetheless, it has a wonderful feel for Verdi’s idiom with fiery playing, imaginative phrasing and dynamic nuance.

Chanáe Curtis as Violetta and Kidon Choi as Germont in Wolf Trap Opera’s performance of La Traviata.

Kidon Choi brought the most enjoyable singing of the evening as Germont, Alfredo’s father. While his playing was unremarkable, Choi is the rarest of singers, a true Verdi baritone – with range, flexibility and opulence. His rendition of “Di Provenza il mar” was most impressive and Choi gave the impression that he had the stamina to rehearse the aria and the entire opera without issue.

Conductor Roberto Kalb elicited a responsive and colorful performance from the National Symphony Orchestra, drawing an impressive degree of alertness, detail and poise. The chorus struggled a bit amid the gypsy flamboyance of the third act, but otherwise the Mexican conductor made the ensemble sing beautifully.

Wolf Trap’s young studio artists were featured wonderfully in supporting roles, especially Saane Halaholo as Annina and Dylan Gregg as Doctor Grenvil.

The production itself was replete with traditional sets and costumes, and director Emma Griffin focused on bringing the drama and singers of the opera to the best possible light. At a time when directors are replacing the composer’s vision with their own, this is a quality to be valued.

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