Miami Lyric Opera serves up a dramatic “Traviata”

By Lawrence Budmen

Maryann Mootos is Violetta in MIami Lyric Opera's production of Verdi's "La Traviata" Saturday night in Miami Beach.

Maryann Mootos is Violetta in MIami Lyric Opera’s production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” Saturday night in Miami Beach.

Verdi’s La Traviata is one of the perennials of the operatic repertoire and for good reason. Based on a novel and play by Alexandre Dumas, the opera is chock full of some of Verdi’s most memorable melodies and paints the tragic tale of the brief life of Violetta Valery, a Parisian courtesan, in a riveting series of dramatic tableaux.

Violetta is one of the composer’s great heroines. The role seemingly requires two different voice types—a brilliant coloratura for Act I and a lyric soprano with a strong upper register for the remainder of the opera. Many singers have taken on this challenge with varying degrees of success.

Maryann Mootos was the protagonist of Miami Lyric Opera’s production Saturday night at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach and, like many predecessors, was more comfortable vocally in the opera’s later scenes.

Mootos initially sounded edgy in the Act I party scene, particularly next to the ardent Alfredo of tenor Jorge Pita Carreras. In Violetta’s showpiece “Sempre libera,” Mootos’ high notes tended toward stridency and one was short of the mark. Once past the aria’s roulades, Mootos’ voice blossomed and she portrayed the heroine’s sacrifice and disintegration in a compelling manner.

When Germont, Alfredo’s father, demanded that she renounce his son, she really seemed to be pleading for her life and love. “Amami, Alfredo” was a cry from the heart, sung in gleaming tones. Mootos radiated heartbreak after Alfredo’s denunciation in the gambling scene, spinning Violetta’s soaring line in the big ensemble on a delicate, thin thread of tone. “Addio, del passato” and the death scene took wing in long bel canto phrases, Mootos’s  portrayal of Violetta’s loss of strength dramatically gripping.

After nearly three decades on the operatic stage, Pita Carreras can still spin the lyric line of “Deh’ mei bolienti spiriti” in dulcet fashion and he nailed the treacherous high C in the ensuing cabaletta. His “Libiamo” was robust and virile, his tone strong and heroic in the gambling scene. Blending mellifluously in duet with Mootos and bringing compassion to the lovers’ final moments together, Pita Carreras offered the evening’s most consistent singing.

As Germont, Graham Fandrei was properly imperious, his tall persona dominating the stage. An experienced concert singer, Fandrei possesses a baritone voice of warmth and power  but there was some constriction in the upper register. The soft ending to “Di Provenza, il mar” was ineffective but he matched Mootos and Pita Carreras for sheer passion and fervor in the final scene. Fandrei has the makings of a fine Germont.

Among the supporting cast, Joanne Martinez’s agile soprano as Flora, Gibson Dorce’s dark bass-baritone as Marchese D’Obigny and Daisy Su’s strong voiced Annina were standouts. Despite some poor wind intonation, Beverly Coulter conducted a deftly paced performance, allowing the Verdi’s melodies to flow spaciously and whipping up the excitement to fever pitch in the gambling scene.

Although  sets were mostly sketchy, costumes proved quite glamorous with Mootos looking every inch the queen in ballroom gowns and the men elegantly attired. Raffaele Cardone staged a tense gambling scene and avoided melodramatic clichés, making Violetta’s death scene all the more effective.

Miami Lyric Opera repeats La Traviata 4 p.m. Sunday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. 305-434-7091.

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Sun Mar 8, 2015
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