Yes, La Traviata is a warhorse. But the old gray mare has had a fine makeover and appears wearing a metaphorical blanket of camellias as she crosses the finish line for Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
For those who aren’t aware, Traviata is based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas the younger, La Dame aux Camellias. It’s been adapted in many ways over the years as straight plays and films, perhaps the most memorable being the Camille when Greta Garbo played the heroine.
All that talks about the versatility of the story, and here, director Patricia Racette has set it in Paris in the Thirties, full Art Deco, with a little art decadence thrown in. It’s an audio-visual fest, starting with the fine casting. Sidney Mancasola is our Violetta, elegant in both appearance and voice, and as passionately emotional as she ought to be in this dramatic role.
Alfredo, who’s been smitten with the beautiful independent contractor for a year before he meets her, is played by Geoffrey Agpalo. Agpalo, who was a memorable Casy in last year’s The Grapes of Wrath, sounds marvelous, hesitant (but not in his singing) as he first is introduced to Violetta and quickly gaining in confidence as the relationship grows. The chemistry between them seems palpable, interrupted only by the appearance of Alfredo’s father, Georgio. As sung by Joo Won Kang, he’s a warm, concerned parent, and he, too, hits the vocal mark with considerable panache. These three sweep us through the story.
And as to the visual: First of all, Laura Jellinek’s set is a wonderful combination of Deco and modern, spare without being simple. The huge camellia backdrop is integral to the story, and the bed/chaise that, when examined a little more closely, is also a camellia, plays right into it. The opulent costumes are the product of Kay Voice’s imagination, quite wonderful. Choreography, including some flamenco, are courtesy of Sean Curran.
There’s not really any downside to this, unless you’re the sort of person that doesn’t like revivals of, oh, My Fair Lady when they’re gorgeous to the eye and the ear.
through June 23
Opera Theatre of St. Louis
130 Edgar Rd., Webster Groves