Utah Opera Performs La Traviata

The newly renovated Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Construction next door to Capitol Theater has blocked off some of the sidewalk.

Two passionate lovers.  A father that forbids them to be together.  A terminal illness and a tragic ending.  La Traviata is one of the most famous operas of all time for its dramatic themes and incredible music.  Utah Opera is performing La Traviata all week, after debuting with an amazing opening night on Saturday.

The newly renovated Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The newly renovated Capitol Theater.

Utah Opera is back in the newly-renovated Capitol Theater after bouncing around the city all season at Abravanel Hall (Salome) and Rose Wagner Theater (Fatal Song).  The renovations are most noticeable in the larger lobby, fresh carpet and new seats.  The subtler changes took place in the women’s restrooms, heating/air conditioning and the orchestra pit, which was updated to improve acoustics and sound (something I’ve long complained about).

Utah Opera rehearses the party scene during Act 1 of La Traviata last week.
Utah Opera rehearses La Traviata’s party scene in Act 1 last week.

La Traviata is the story of a French courtesan (Violetta) with tuberculosis who meets an admirer (Alfredo) at a party.  After telling him that love means nothing to her, in true operatic fashion, she suddenly falls madly in love with him.  She gives up her partying lifestyle for him and together they move to the countryside.  Later Alfredo’s father (Germont) arrives to tell Violetta she must leave Alfredo because their relationship is threatening his daughter’s engagement.  After emotionally telling Germont how much she loves Alfredo, Violetta reluctantly agrees to leave him.

Sara Gartland as Violetta and Cody Austin as Alfredo sing in La Traviata rehearsals last week at the Utah Opera.
Sara Gartland as Violetta and Cody Austin as Alfredo sing in La Traviata rehearsals last week.

Alfredo assumes Violetta has found a new lover and finds her at a party, where he throws money at her feet in front of everyone and denounces their love.  Six months later, as Violetta is dying and Germont has finally revealed everything to Alfredo, Alfredo comes to Violetta’s side to beg her pardon.  They exclaim their love for each other before she dies at Alfredo’s feet.  The complete synopsis is here.

James Westman as Germont sings with Sara Gartland as Violetta during La Traviata rehearsals last week for the Utah Opera.
James Westman as Germont sings with Sara Gartland as Violetta during La Traviata rehearsals last week.

La Traviata is impossible to pull off without a powerful soprano and Sara Garland’s passionate performance of Violetta was stunning.  What’s more impressive is that this is Sara’s first time in the role.  But I assure you, it won’t be her last.  In contrast, Germont was played by James Westman, who has sung this role 150 times around the world.  His calm confidence was a strong presence any time he was on stage.  And Alfredo, sung by tenor Cody Austin, was beautifully talented.

The Capitol Theater marquee displaying the La Traviata banner.
Utah Opera performs La Traviata all week.

Utah Opera put on an impressive performance all around, from the set (designed by Peter Dean Beck) to the costumes (created by Susan Memmott Allred).  This is director José Maria Condemi’s second time working with Utah Opera; he directed last year’s Florencia en el Amazonas.  His creative take on the modern opera didn’t sit well with me, but his rendition of La Traviata is a convincing argument that he has the ability to turn a well-told story into a beautiful masterpiece.

Utah Opera performs La Traviata Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.  Tickets range from $29-88 and are around $12 for those under 30 years old.  Tickets are available online here.  Learn more about La Travaita on Utah Opera’s website or check out information for Turandot, opening in March.

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