Thursday, July 27, 2017 This Week's Paper

Arts & Entertainment: Tacoma Opera stages 1853 classic ‘La Traviata’

Tacoma Opera is set to finish its 2012-13 season in grand style with a production of “La Traviata,” Giuseppe Verdi’s grand masterpiece that remains one of the most performed operas worldwide despite the fact that it is now more than 150 years old.

Fans of the PBS series “Downton Abby” will find themselves right at home as Tacoma Opera director Noel Koran decided to set the production in the roaring 1920s, an epoch of tuxedos, elegant gowns and lavish cocktail parties. Verdi had originally wanted his opera to be given a contemporary setting (mid-1800s when he wrote it), but was forced initially to set it in the 1700s. During the last 150 years, however, opera directors have felt themselves free to give the piece a setting from any era that strikes their fancy. This is in keeping with the spirit of Verdi’s original intent.

A 2009 production of the opera in Dresden had the leading lady decked out in hot pink stilettos and a short, flashy cheetah dress. Earlier this year a San Francisco version of “La Traviata” set the story in the 1980s during the height of the AIDS crisis. It is testament to the timeless quality of the story and the music that it can feel so at home in any era.

“La Traviata” is translated as “The Fallen Woman.” The story is based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel “La Dame Aux Camelia.” It is a love story involving a high-end prostitute named Violetta who is at the center of a dazzling party scene of the upper crust of Parisian society. She falls in love with the sincere young nobleman named Alfredo. Alfredo’s father, Giorgio, persuades Violetta to leave his son for the sake of his family’s reputation and the tragedy is set in motion. Verdi wanted to elicit a humane, tolerant and loving reaction in his audience in accordance with the romantic spirit that is still very much alive in our own time.

In the Tacoma Opera production, Violetta is played by soprano Jacquelynne Fontaine. Alfredo is performed by tenor Brendon Touhy for whom the role is something of a homecoming since he was born and raised in Tacoma.

Touhy has performed extensively with the Houston Grand Opera and Portland Opera. He has also performed at many other venues all over the world.

“‘La Traviata’ is a great crash course in opera,” said Touhy. “If you like ‘Traviata,’ you’ll get opera. It you don’t like it then maybe opera is not for you. It’s got everything – love, tragedy and human relationships. The music is stunningly beautiful with a lot of famous tunes in it.”

Tacoma Opera’s “La Traviata” is sung in Italian with English projections. The opera will be performed March 15 and 17 in the Pantages Theater. For further information call (253) 627-7789 or visit