San Francisco Opera’s Fall Season continues with La Traviata, Guiseppe Verdi’s widely loved interpretation of the French play, La dame aux Camélias, by Alexandre Dumas (the younger).
While La Traviata is one of the world’s most performed operas, and one which the Company has staged on 32 occasions during the past 95 years, this season’s production has added interest with the introduction of three artists, in the leading roles, all making their San Francisco Opera debuts. Romanian soprano Aurelia Florian sings the role of Violetta Valéry, Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan is Alfredo Germont and Polish baritone Artur Ruciński sings Giorgio Germont.
San Francisco Opera’s sumptuous and classic production, this one originally staged in 1987, is once again directed by English director John Copley, with stage direction by Shawna Lucey. Nicola Luisotti leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Director Ian Robertson), choreography is by Carola Zertuche, Artistic Director of Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco, set design is by John Conklin, costumes by David Walker and lighting Gary Marder.
La dame aux Camélias, written in 1852, was itself an adaptation – of Dumas’ 1848 novel of the same name – which tells of the tragic downfall of a society courtesan, Violetta Valéry. The opera, with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, premiered at Teatro La Fenice in Venice on March 6, 1853.
Romanian soprano Aurelia Florian not only makes her San Francisco Opera debut in these performances of La Traviata, but sings this role for the first time in the United States as well. A former member of the Romanian National Opera Bucharest, Ms Florian first sang Violetta at the Sarzana Opera Festival in 2011, and has made house debuts in the role with Bavarian State Opera Munich, Opera Zurich and Norske Opera Oslo, among others. She has sung leading roles in operas by Verdi and Puccini in some of the world’s major theatres, and has returned on a number of occasions to Israel Opera Tel Aviv. One of her most interesting appearances in La Traviata was with Israel Opera and Daniel Oren at the 2015 Masada Opera Festival, on the shores of the Dead Sea, in which her performance – according to Reuters – “left the audience spellbound”.
Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan made a surprise debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 2011, when he stepped in at less than 24 hours’ notice to sing five arias in the Company’s opening Summer Concert in Central Park. Following this appearance, the New York Times wrote of his “warm, rounded tone with a quality that calls to mind the young Placido Domingo”. He has also won acclaim for performances at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala Milan, Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Deutsche Oper Berlin. During the 2016-17 season Mr Ayan sang the role of Alfredo Germont at the Metropolitan Opera – under the baton of Nicola Luisotti – and also at Covent Garden and the Glyndebourne Festival.
Polish baritone Artur Ruciński most recently appeared as Giorgio Germont at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, at Arena di Verona and Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin. He has appeared on the stages of some of the world’s major opera houses – Teatro Liceu Barcelona, Hamburg State Oper, Opéra Bastille, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro alla Scala Milan, Vienna Musikverein and the Metropolitan Opera – in a range of roles, including the title role in Eugene Onegin, Prinz Jelecky in The Queen of Spades (with Valery Gergiev), Lescaut in Manon, Count Almaviva in Nozze di Figaro and Mercutio in Romeo et Juliette.
Current and former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows complete the cast – mezzo-soprano Renée Rapier as Flora Bervoix, tenor Amitai Pati as Gastone, bass-baritone Philip Skinner as Baron Douphol, bass Anthony Reed as Doctor Grenvil, baritone Andrew G Manea as Marquis d’Obigny and soprano Amina Edris as Annina.
La Traviata, sung in Italian with English supertitles, runs at the War Memorial Opera House until October 17. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.