La Traviata: A wonderful night at the opera in this cozy suburban city of New Rochelle…

Review by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

What a pleasant surprise was attending a performance of La Traviata presented by the New Rochelle Opera at the Frank J. Auriana Theatre in New Rochelle!

The level of expertise demonstrated by the performers and musicians was very high and the overall effect was exhilarating even for someone like me who, through the years, has witnessed many versions of this opera.

From the left, Denise Battle as Annina, John Dominick III as Dr. Grenvil, Gabriel Hernandez as Alfredo Germont, Kelli Butler as Violetta, and Chad Armstrong as Giorgio Germont

Kelli Butler was an amazing Violetta, convincing in her ailing beauty act, which was at times so touching that I forgot it was not real and felt emotionally distressed. Moreover, she offered an impeccable and exciting singing performance, worthy of much more famous venues.

Having such an outstanding performer as the main female character certainly would have been sufficient to carry this opera through at a decent level, but she was propitiously surrounded by so many talented professionals and the performance turned out to be truly an outstanding one.

The other great singing revelation of the night was Chad Armstrong, who showed amazing vocal power in his portrayal of Giorgio Germont. He is a baritone who will have great success.

Satisfactory but not rousing the performance of Gabriel Hernandez as Alfredo Germont, who showed great control of his voice but limited power and furthermore was not very convincing as acting goes, carrying an almost unchanged facial expression throughout most of the opera. I am sure that he has talent and time will allow it to surface completely.

Excellent in their roles as Flora and Baron Douphol, Sara Petrocelli and Kevin Johnson demonstrated their vocal and acting skills are quite ready for bigger parts. Bravo goes to Chad Kranak as Gastone and Javier Ortiz as the Marquis D’Obigny for their significant contribution to the positive outcome of the performance. Mr. Ortiz, in particular, has remarkable voice skills and will go far.

I found more than adequate the chorus as the Ladies and Gentlemen of Paris.

The direction and production by Camille Coppola were so well coordinated that the spectator would be unable to remember that he or she was in a small theater and could instead become completely absorbed by the events unfolding in this magnificent Verdian opera. Kudos goes to the director and the scenic designer (Eric Zoback) who were able to make you enjoy the developments of the story without witnessing any possible clumsiness due to the limited space on stage.

The scene with the gypsy dancers was magnificent and the dancers (Michelle Foard, Mary Gingrich,  Christine Perone, and Kim Smart) were quite accomplished. Again, it was amazing how this could have been done on such a small stage and still make it look natural.

It is true that no matter how good the performers are, it is the orchestra the one that creates the proper environment for the singer to excel, and it was done so thanks to a great conductor (Brian Holman) and the excellent musicians in the orchestra: they delivered a superb execution and their music never drowned the singers’ voices.

Another remarkable characteristic of this performance was that all the singers, chorus included, demonstrated a magnificent Italian diction, representative of a high level of preparation and professionality.

It was a wonderful night at the opera in this cozy suburban city of New Rochelle…

(This review refers to the performance of June 23, 2019)

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