Memphis, Tenn. Oct. 5, 2017 – After celebrating the sixth year of 30 Days of Opera, Opera Memphis is making the transition back to the theater for its season opener, Verdi’s incomparable masterpiece La traviata.
Written in 1853, La traviata is based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils (the son), whose father is the well-known author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre, fils was Dumas’ illegitimate son with a poor dressmaker, who lost her parental rights when the elder Dumas decided to legally recognize his son. While this afforded the child the best possible education and opportunity, his mother’s tragedy left a lasting mark on the young Alexandre. His writing is preoccupied with the complicated lives of women on society’s fringes, and nowhere is that more clear than in the story of Violetta Valery, the “traviata”, or fallen woman, of our opera.
With lush orchestration and glorious vocal writing, Verdi’s opera presents Violetta as a modern woman before her time. Her life as a courtesan has afforded her a unique level of independence, but – while it allows her to socialize in the highest levels of French society – it excludes her from ever making a good marriage, the only path to stability for women of her era. Still, Violetta is comfortable with the sacrifice, believing love is ultimately meaningless. That is, until the day she meets Alfredo Germont and everything changes. If the story sounds familiar, it should. It inspired the 1990s smash, Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, as well as Baz Luhrman’s pop-opera mash-up, Moulin Rouge.
Verdi was incredibly attentive to the singers and theaters chosen to present La traviata. Its premiere was at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice, an 840-seat theater that Verdi regularly chose to premiere his operas. The intimacy of the space allowed the nuances of character and orchestration to shine. Opera Memphis ticket-buyers have the unique opportunity to see this opera in a theater almost exactly the same size as La Fenice, Germantown Performing Arts Center.
To bring this gorgeous opera to life, Opera Memphis has gathered a phenomenal cast and creative team. The role of Violetta is played by Laquita Mitchell, a Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Prize Winner and protégé of operatic titan Jessye Norman, she is in demand across the US and in Europe. Her lover, Alfredo, is played by Joseph Dennis, a young tenor who burst onto the operatic scene in 2014 when he filled in at the last minute in the title role of Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen at Santa Fe Opera, singing the entire role in Mandarin Chinese and to great acclaim. Joining them in the role of Alfredo’s father is the stalwart baritone Michael Corvino, last seen on the Opera Memphis stage in 2013’s Rigoletto. The cast also features local favorites soprano Chelsea Miller, mezzo Nikola Printz, baritone Stephen Len White, and others. The always-wonderful Opera Memphis chorus has reached new levels of excellence in La traviata, being expertly prepared by Opera Memphis’ new music director, Michael Sakir.
This sterling cast is led by a conductor and director in their Opera Memphis debuts. Conductor Douglas Kinney Frost was recently hailed as “transcendent” and recognized by Opera News as the 2015 Critic’s Choice. Stage Director Benjamin Wayne Smith is director of opera at the University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music and a frequent guest director at opera companies around the country, from Pittsburgh to Seattle.
La traviata runs October 13 & 14 at 7:30 pm at Germantown Performing Arts Center. Tickets start at $37 and are available at 901.202.4533 or operamemphis.org. Student rush tickets are available for $10 at the door (cash only), and group discounts can be arranged through the Opera Memphis box office at 901.202.4533.
ABOUT OPERA MEMPHIS
Opera Memphis was founded in 1956 and has grown into a world-class opera company. Widely respected for its innovative approach to outreach and audience development, Opera Memphis has become a nationally recognized thought leader on the process of evolving to meet the needs of 21st century audiences. For more information on upcoming Opera Memphis performances, call 901-257-3100 or visit www.operamemphis.org. To keep up with the latest news and happenings, follow Opera Memphis on facebook.com/operamemphis or on Twitter as @operamemphis.