Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Jerusalem Opera presents a concert performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata"; conductor: Omer Arieli

Aaron Blake,Olga Senderskaya,Maestro Omer Arieli (Elad Zagman)


From its inception in 2011, audiences have delighted in the Jerusalem Opera's productions, the high performance standards the company maintains and in the fact that Jerusalem has an opera company moving from strength to strength. For the Jerusalem Opera's recent concert production of Verdi's "La Traviata" (producer: Slava Kozodoi), musical director/conductor Omer Arieli was joined by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Jerusalem Opera Singers (director: Inbal Brill) and overseas and local soloists. This writer attended the performance on November 27th 2021 in the Henry Crown Auditorium of the Jerusalem Theatre


Revealing self-confidence and compositional maturity in his 40th year, Giuseppe Verdi takes a break from biblical stories and historical dramas to present audiences with an opera dealing with some of the great moral and social dilemmas of the 19th-century world - prostitution, disease and human passion. Violetta’s life of pleasure, Alfredo’s declaration of love, her escape with him to the country, her sacrifice of this new life due to the social outrage of Alfredo’s father and her death from tuberculosis come together to the sounds of the waltzes and polkas that had taken Europe by storm, evoking the pleasures of drink and sensuality. “A whore must always be a whore” was Verdi's furious response to the censors in Rome who had requested he modify the story of the Parisian courtesan Violetta to be more acceptable to the tastes of a conservative public. Indeed, "La Traviata" tells the story of a woman exploited by a male-dominated society and then cast aside when she becomes a threat to a bourgeois family’s status. Literally translated as "The Fallen Woman", "La Traviata" is the tragic tale of Violetta, who attempts to leave the life she knows behind, in an attempt to finally find true love.


From the moment the first scene opens with a grand party of singing and dancing hosted by Violetta, we are swept into the energetic, vital ambience of the Jerusalem Opera's performance. With orchestra and conductor occupying most of the stage, chorus and soloists appear at the front, making for direct communication with the audience and with each other. In performance that was both convincing and never overblown, the soloists were well cast: American tenor Aaron Blake as the tender and somewhat naive Alfredo, his timbral range and timing reflecting each stage of the unfolding drama, baritone Gabriele Ribis (Italy) as the sanguine, understated but resolute Giorgio Germont, bass-baritone Yuri Kissin as the kindly Dr. Grenvil, soprano Inbal Brill as Anina, Violetta's loyal maid, and soloists Oded Reich (Marquis d'Obigny), Esther Kopel (Flora Bervox), Marc Shaimer (Gastone, Visconte de Letorieres) and Dmitry Lovtsov (Baron Douphol).. Born in Yaroslavl, Russia, soprano Olga Senderskaya made for an outstanding Violetta, portraying each situation and emotion in articulate, communicative and dignified singing and body language, allowing for each shade of meaning of the text and music to shine through to the audience. She was exceptional!


With Verdi's music moving hand-in-glove with Francesco Maria Piave's libretto, Maestro Arieli and the JSO gave the music a sense of urgency and expectation, emphasizing how intertwined the orchestral score is with the opera's course and characters throughout, as the overtures poignantly conveyed the heartbreak awaiting Violetta and Alfredo. And one never tires of La Traviata's highlights, among them, “Sempre libera”, in which  Violetta laughs off the idea of true love and vows to live for pleasure, even when she hears the voice of Alfredo outside her window, .Alfredo’s bubbling "Brindisi" (drinking song), the symbol of the opera’s good times and joyous hedonism and "Addio del passato", Violetta’s Act III aria, its music harking back to the dances and festivities of Act I, her words, however, renouncing her youthful dreams of love to now accept her approaching death. 


The Jerusalem Opera's concert performance left one feeling that La Traviata's portrayal of the superficial glamour of 19th-century Paris, as contrasted with scenes of great intimacy, then culminating in the heart-rending final act, were intense and meaningful without any need for stage sets and backdrops.


Miri Shamir

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