The success of any production of La traviata depends heavily on the singers in its three central roles. They are marvelous for Palm Beach Opera, with a solid supporting cast and excellent orchestra and chorus.
Kristina Mkhitaryan, fresh from her Met debut last fall as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, gives a convincing portrayal of Violetta, both as a glamorous courtesan and in the deathbed scene. She sings with vivacity as Violetta echoes Alfredo in the ‘Brindisi’ and with agile coloratura in ‘Sempre libera’ as she declares her need for freedom. She and Massimo Cavalletti bring plenty of dramatic tension to the Act Two confrontation between Violetta and Germont senior. Cavalletti’s beautifully resonant baritone underscores Germont as a protective father who persuades Violetta to leave Alfredo in order to save his sister’s marital prospects, and then entreats his son to return to the family home. Equally credible is his much-warmer characterization as he reconciles with Violetta in the final Act, in which Mkhitaryan’s rendition of Violetta’s parting wishes to Alfredo is sung with touching intensity.
Alexey Tatarintsev’s bright tenor is richly melodic and thrilling at the top in Alfredo’s love-duets with Violetta and also in a melody that recurs to represent Alfredo’s devotion to her. His singing and acting aptly reflect Alfredo’s emotional highs and lows – anger and jealousy and tender affection in his reunion with the dying Violetta. Natalie Rose Havens as Flora, and Ben Schaefer as Baron Douphol, are standouts.
Under Antonello Allemandi the orchestra shines without overpowering the singers, tempos well-judged, and the shimmering strings outstanding in foretelling Violetta’s death during the Preludes to the outer Acts. Desmond Heeley’s designs (originally for Chicago Lyric Opera) are attractive and atmospheric, the set’s basic elements cleverly reconfigure to depict the locales, with the gloom of Violetta’s bedchamber emphasized by Stuart Duke’s effective lighting. Dancers from the Palm Beach Ballet bring Colleen Smith’s choreography to life at Flora’s party.