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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Opera Review: A Girl Dies in Brooklyn

City Opera presents La Traviata at BAM.
Violetta (Laquita Mitchell) confronts Germont in Act II of La traviata. 
Photo by Carol Rosegg © 2012 New York City Opera.
The New York City Opera came to the end of a long and rocky year off on Sunday, making a fresh start with La Traviata, presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This is City Opera's first fully staged performance since an April 2011 announcement that the company would leave its longtime home at Lincoln Center.

This production is a nod to the company's past, designed by Jonathan Miller and imported from their former partners upstate at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, NY. The staging is a familiar Miller configuration, right-angled walls forming a triangular acting surface, and a corridor in the back to facilitate exits, entrances and any offstage action. The unit set was simple art nouveau, matching the elegant surroundings of BAM's Gilman Opera House. The minimal, elegant rooms allowed focus on the drama without distraction. 

Violetta is one of the most well-known but challenging roles in the soprano repertory. Laquita Mitchell was suited to those challenges, creating a complex, nianced portrait of the doomed courtesan. She flew above the stave in Sempre libera, interjecting doubt into each stanza of the famous aria every time it was interrupted by Alfredo offstage.

Ms. Mitchell was even better in the second act, bringing a quiet dignity to Violetta in her confrontation with the elder Germont. It was good to see this scene played with understated 19th century gravitas, but one could sense the emotions boiling underneath. 

Stephen Powell was a strong presence as Germont, bringing out the complicated facets of this bourgeois gentleman. He even overcame a slight, audible wardrobe malfunction in the second act, getting a fast pants change before delivering a moving "Di provenza il mar." 

Tenor David Pomeroy should be better known to New Yorkers. Often assigned as a cover at the Metropolitan Opera, he is frequently stepped over as that company's general manager signs faded stars in the interest of box office dollars. Today, the Canadian singer had his coming-out party in front of a packed house, delivering an ardent performance with few peccadilloes. 

Mr. Pomeroy has a robust instrument and an enthusiastic stage presence. His Alfred is an innocent fool, made wise through the sacrifices of Violetta and the ultimate compassion of his father. There was real tragic weight in his duets with Ms. Mitchell in the fourth act. No heavy symbolism was needed--just a girl dying on a simple bed as the world moved on outside. 

Stephen White conducted a brisk, energetic performance, doubling as orchestra leader and prompter for the singers onstage. The City Opera orchestra demonstrated their worth to this troubled company, playing Verdi's innovative score with rhythmic snap and panache. The chorus showed their quality in the opera's complex party scenes, which kept the choreographed matadors and bulls to a tolerable minimum.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.