Baritone a bright spot in FGO’s weak second-cast “Traviata”

By David Fleshler

Joo Won Kang as Germont and Suzanne Vinnik as Violetta in FGO’s second-cast “Travata.” Photo: Alejandra Serna

With the exception of a terrific baritone, a decidedly weaker second cast took the stage Sunday in Florida Grand Opera’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata.

The previous night, singers in the three principal roles gave an outstanding performance at the Arsht Center in Miami, led by the Mexican soprano María Alejandres in a luminous, passionate and vocally dazzling portrayal of the courtesan Violetta. Together with a strong performance by the orchestra and sets that vividly portrayed the glitter of upper-class Paris, the production served up an absorbing evening of opera.

But in the Sunday matinee cast, only the young baritone Joo Won Kang gave a performance on a comparable level.

The first act was particularly hard going. In the role of Violetta, the soprano Suzanne Vinnik gave rough treatment to Ah, fors’è lui and Sempre libera, with effortful singing and thin, shrill high notes. As Alfredo, the tenor John Bellemer stood on a sofa and barked out a choppy Brindisi, with a too-wide vibrato and uneven tone production, followed by an Un di felice in which the tones sounded forced.

In the second and third acts, both singers fared better, with Bellemer giving a focused, passionate performance of his long second-act solos and Vinnik effectively expressing Violetta’s anguish in wails of pain during the gambling scene.

But the strongest element by far was the performance of the South Korean baritone Joo Won Kang, a former FGO Young Artist now in San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Adler program. He brought a rich, focused tone to the role of Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, singing with warm humanity in the aria Di Provenza and stern paternal authority as he admonishes his son for humiliating Violetta.

Clueless members of the audience ruined the opening to the final act. Before the pianissimo orchestral prelude, as members of the audience kept talking and coughing, music director Ramon Tebar stood with his arms at his sides and waited for silence. And waited. Finally, even though the talking had died down only slightly, he began the prelude, a meticulously prepared passage in the strings performed over a racket of whispers and coughs. The orchestra, having turned in another strong performance, deserved more respect.

Florida Grand Opera’s production of La Traviata, with María Alejandres as Violetta, Ivan Magrì as Alfredo and Giorgio Caoduro as Germont, continues Tuesday, Friday, May 2 and 5. The second cast, featuring Vinnik, Bellemer and Kang will perform Wednesday, Saturday and May 4.; 800-741-1010.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Mon Apr 22, 2013
at 9:57 am
No Comments