'La Traviata' opens at Syracuse Opera

"La Traviata" Presented by Syracuse Opera

Location Crouse-Hinds Auditorium  411 Montgomery St. Syracuse

When October 21 & 23

Tickets $18 to $165. Call the Syracuse Opera Box Office at 476-7372.

Review By Leah Harrison

Syracuse Opera's season opener successfully presented two youthful voices in treacherous roles with their season opener, "La Traviata."

Danielle Pastin sang Violetta, the consumptive Parisian party girl, opposite Nathaniel Peake in his first appearance as Alfredo. Peake was one of Syracuse Opera’s first Resident Artists in 2008, and has come back after winning several notable competitions,including first prize in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition.

Pastin’s lyric soprano delighted most during tender, quiet moments, aptly communicating the revelation of selflessness and sorrow Violetta comes to know in Acts II and III. These sensitivities were a relief after a rather tepid Act I, though there are fewer opportunities to zero in on Violetta’s character as she hosts a party and strings Alfredo along.

Pastin caught a break at Santa Fe this summer, where she covered the role of Mimi in "La Boheme" on three hours notice. Her appearance is anything but consumptive, but her tender voice is appropriate for the role.

Peake’s pure voice radiated pleasure and ease, immediately recognizable as a future opera great. His tenor voice—beautifully laid back at times, with some strain during high drama—combined with his reasonable height makes him a desirable cast in numerous roles.

Violetta’s character changes multiple times throughout this story, and while Pastin gave us a few flourishing insights to Violetta’s anguish, she was never quite the actor she needed to be. Pastin named acting as one of her skills-in-progress in an earlier interview, and her youth certainly allows her the time to blossom on the theatrical front.

Luis Ledesma played Germont, showing his adeptness with Verdi baritone roles. His voice’s rich presence portrayed a very noble Germont, which was nice, aside from the need for some villainous strands. He is, after all, responsible for Violetta’s death. Ledesma’s acting needs the most work of anyone.

Syracuse Opera's Director of Music,  Douglas Kinney Frost conducted an eager pit orchestra, consisting of Symphony Syracuse members. The blend and tone of the strings in the opening phrases of the overture were swoon-worthy, followed by an overall pleasing performance. Verdi wrote lots of quick and close fragments that fall high on the instruments and were a little pitchy, and as observed before, the phrase edges were tatty at times. The orchestra also covered singers a few times with its volume, though its presence was appropriate throughout most of the performance. Ultimately, the pit added a great deal of emotion and dramatic reinforcement to the opera.

Schweibert’s stage directing was boring, neglecting effective ideas for singers who only had blank backdrops, a few tables and chairs, and a bed to work with. "Traviata" doesn’t demand a great deal in a set, but if this approach is taken—and it often is in these hard economic times—more meaningful use of the space should compensate.

The audiences’ multiple curtain calls showed their recognition of a successful production. Overall, we heard a respectable, beautiful telling of Verdi’s tragedy, even if the theatrics weren’t there.