By Nino Pantano
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As part of the worldwide bicentennial tribute to Italy’s great composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), on Saturday June 8, the Regina Opera presented his masterpiece, “La Traviata,” for the finale of its 43rd season at its new theatre at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) on 60th Street and 6th Avenue in Sunset Park.
When the curtain opened and Maestro Scott Jackson Wiley’s baton brought forth the familiar strains of the prelude, the magic began. The title role of the courtesan Violetta Valery, based on Camille in “The Lady of the Camellias” by Alexandre Dumas fils, was sung and acted to perfection by soprano Andrea Bargabos. The drinking song “Libiamo,” sung with her eager young suitor, Alfredo, was a blend of bravura fireworks, with Ms. Bargabos revealing a creamy voice of great beauty, agility and power.
Her floating tones and portamentos of “Ah, fors’è lui” were astonishing, and Ms. Bargabos scored a triumph in a thrilling “Sempre Libera,” with ornamental phrasing and coloratura fireworks, and an electrifying high E-flat at the end! Ms. Bargabos's ability to “swell” and diminish on a high note showed remarkable breath control.
In the second act, Ms. Bargabos’ defiance to the elder Germont’s insistence that she leave Alfredo to preserve the family honor, and her ultimate yielding to his request, was heartbreaking. Her “Alfredo, di questo core” in the third act gripped our hearts with an outpouring of anguish and vocal gold. Her “Addio del passato” in the final act and “Ah! Gran Dio!” and her sudden burst of life before her fatal collapse was riveting. Her letter scene was penned to last forever in memory. Ms. Bargabos was a Violetta for the ages!
Her Alfredo was the promising young tenor David Bailey. Bailey’s singing in the “Libiamo” revealed a purely lyric sound with a bit of bite to it. Bailey’s singing of “De’ mei bollenti spiriti” at the beginning of the second act was nicely performed, and he hit a solid high C in the cabaletta that followed. His plangent outpouring in their final duet “Parigi, o cara” had ardent sweetness. Bailey’s defiance of the elder Germont was effective, and his remorse was touching.
The role of the elder Germont was in the secure hands of Ricardo Rosa, whose rich, round and mellow baritone blended well with Violetta in the “Piangi” duet. Germont’s exquisite singing of “Di provenza il mar, il suol“ conjured up the great baritones of the past, and his remorse and request for forgiveness at the finale struck our hearts.
Mezzo Jennie Mescon was a splendid Flora Bervoix, friend to Violetta, and vibrant baritone Kevin Rockower was a strong Baron Duphol. His resounding glove slap of Alfredo at the end of Act 2 was great theater.
The rest of the cast included Nicholas Connelly as Marquis d’Obigny; Jonathan Dauermann as a resonant Dr. Grenvil, a physician; Christina Hourihan as Violetta’s loyal, sympathetic maid Annina; Bryan Ribeiro’s Giuseppe, a servant; Daniel Kerr as a commissioner; and the multi-talented Wayne Olsen as Flora’s servant.
The production featured bright and colorful period costumes by Julia Cornely, lighting by Tyler Learned and supertitles by Linda Cantoni.
The chorus sang with power and precision. The plush sets designed by Linda Lehr of Violetta’s Paris salon with its ribald parties, the Act 2 floral gardens, and the final act’s grim bedchamber, were remarkable. The stage direction, also by Linda Lehr brought us into the drama of salons and the splendor of Violetta’s world with fluidity and abandon.
The brilliant conducting of Maestro Scott Jackson Wiley and the 33 splendid musicians of the Regina Orchestra kept things going at a brisk pace. The strings, so prominent in the preludes and throughout, were in the sterling hands of concertmaster Yelena Savranskaya. Maestro Wiley brought out all of the nuance and poignancy of this magnificent score. We look forward to the 44th season of opera at Regina!