Our esteemed partner company Opera Carolina is continuing its season, and after the success of an excellent The Barber of Seville, we are being treated to another crowd favorite: La traviata. Due to prior commitments we won’t be able to attend the opening matinée but will attend the last show on January 28th to publish our review. We are doing three mini-interviews with the principal artists: in the title role of Violetta, the great soprano Elizabeth Caballero, our three-times interviewee who is already a favorite of the Charlotte public (she sang Nedda in Pagliacci and Zemfira in Aleko last season); tenor Sean Pannikar as Alfredo who commands an impressive career, and baritone Reginald Smith Jr., the 2015 National Council Auditions winner, in the role of Germont.
The opera will be given in Italian with English surtitles. The run has three shows: Sunday January 22, 2017 at 2 PM, Thursday the 26th at 7:30 PM, and Saturday the 28th at 8 PM at the Blumenthal Performance Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. For tickets, click here. We’ve been covering Opera Carolina for years and the company always presents compelling productions, well sung and well conducted (Maestro Meena will be at the podium which accounts for guaranteed quality). In terms of casting, it doesn’t get any better than that! So dear reader, don’t miss it! For more information on the show, click here.
Let’s start with Elizabeth. This spectacular soprano has given some extensive answers to Opera Lively in the past in her first and second interviews with us (read them here and here) so this time we kept it short with four questions, which we’ll go ahead and reproduce now without further ado, since by clicking on the two older interviews above the readers can find all the information about this talented singer.
Opera Lively – The acting for Violetta is very taxing given that she goes through at least two pivotal moments. The first one is when she goes from mocking Alfredo’s feelings and resisting the lure of love to falling for him heads on. The second one is when she is fierce and combative with Papa Germont but rapidly capitulates when he pulls the emotional cards of his daughter’s fate and Alfredo’s future. Tell us about your favorite acting and singing parts of this role.
Elizabeth Caballero – The role of Violetta is not only a beautiful role to sing but also a wonderful acting role. In my opinion, the most powerful moments for her are in the final act when she realizes that not even Alfredo’s return can save her from death and she goes through almost all the stages of death. She has anger, bargaining and finally at the very end, she accepts her fate. While not a truly natural death, it is quite beautiful especially in the final moments when she “sees the light.” Act 3 are my favorite moments to act.
To sing, definitely the duet with Papa Germont. It is the heart of the opera. Verdi had a real gift in writing gorgeous duets for baritones and soprano. This one is one of my favorites to sing.
Opera Lively – La Traviata is one of the most performed operas worldwide. It is extremely popular for a reason – its stratospheric operatic quality with great music and fabulous libretto – but the other side of this coin is that it becomes hard to keep it new. Given that Violetta could be called your signature role, what is your recipe for keeping each performance of La Traviata unique and compelling?
Elizabeth Caballero – I wouldn’t call Violetta “my signature role.” I’m just lucky to frequently perform as Violetta. I love the role very much. The recipe in keeping each opera I perform fresh and new are the new folks surrounding the opera. The new cast members, the new maestro, orchestra, chorus and set and costumes. While we are performing yet another Traviata, it is with new people and faces and we all have our ideas or take on all these characters and music. It’s what makes live theater always fresh and exciting.
Opera Lively – As the saying goes, one needs three sopranos to properly sing Violetta. A coloratura for the first act, a lyrical for the second, and a dramatic for the third. This is an exaggeration, of course, but please tell us about the vocal challenges in the role.
Elizabeth Caballero – I just sing Violetta with my voice. I sing everything with my voice. I never try to sing with a “Puccini voice” or a “Verdi voice” or a “Mozart voice.” I make sure I use my instrument and change the style accordingly. I don’t agree that you need a soprano with 3 voices to sing Violetta. The Aria in Act 1 is a true tour de force of an aria. It is long with lots of fioritura and coloratura and many high notes. Maestro Verdi is smart in setting this aria in the top of the show because it’s a great warm up for the remainder of the opera. Once the curtain goes down after the Act 1 aria, you have some moments to recover to sing a very long and dramatic duet, followed by the confrontation at the party and finally the death. If anything, Violetta is much more an acting role than it is a singing role.
Opera Lively – Another aspect of the opera’s popularity is that the greatest sopranos in all of opera history took up this role in their careers, leaving us great recordings in audio and visual media. Please share with us some of your favorite Violettas, the ones you consider as great inspiration, and tell us the reasons for your choices.
Elizabeth Caballero – My favorite modern Traviata is Angela Gheorghiu. Her recording with Solti that made her famous, is one of my favorites. Another favorite recording is the one with Ileana Contrubas and Carlos Klieber conducting. He’s one of my favorite conductors. Of course I love listening to Renata Scotto and Maria Callas because I love them for the singing actresses they are. The way that they use the text when they sing almost makes me forget that they are singing.