The Canadian Opera Company presents La Traviata playing in Toronto until October 31
The course of true love never did run smooth, as Shakespeare had it, and on this point of plot turns many an opera (all of them, really) – including La Traviata, currently being performed by the Canadian Opera Company. The Verdi opera has been much censored and maligned since it was first performed in 1853, frequently condemned as too racy, too scandalous to be a fit subject for the form. Having evidently been ruined for scandal by my thoroughly modern sensibilities, I must confess that of everything I have seen at COC this production of La Traviata is my absolute favorite.
The moral horror within La Traviata is this: main character Violetta is a courtesan (a woman “led astray”, traviata) who sets up housekeeping with her beloved. Lest you find yourself faint already, rest assured that she is thoroughly shamed by her would-be father-in-law and then dies shortly thereafter, only somewhat redeemed. In the interim, however, she has an opportunity to love and be loved in return by her handsome and previously upstanding sweetheart. In this production, Violetta and Alfredo are sung by Russian soprano Ekaterina Siurina and American tenor Charles Castronovo, who are a real-life married couple (a state their characters never attain). They make a lively and longing pair, by turns. I particularly enjoyed Siurina in her few unaccompanied moments onstage, her voice as clear and cleanly defined as a shaft of sunlight.
Quinn Kelsey, the magical Hawaiian baritone, rounds out the trio stunningly here as Giorgio, father of Alfredo. In case “magical” and “stunning” were too subtle, let me explicitly say that I love everything about Kelsey’s voice. His duet in the second act with Siurina left me actually faint, so afraid was I to make any noise at all that might interfere with my ability to listen that I may possibly have stopped breathing. It’s difficult to describe how arresting his voice is, how much it seems to take up all the room in one’s entire head, but trust me that it’s a wholesale marvel.
I quite enjoyed director Arin Arbus’ vision for the opera, and her general enthusiasm for playing with the questions of the real and faux, the public and the private. Lavish party scenes full of supernumeraries and minor characters in tremendous confectionary costumes designed by Cait O’Connor, lit as though they were one kinetic dessert buffet by Marcus Doshi, are contrasted with spare interiors and fairly interior interactions to go with them. Arbus isn’t afraid of either big or small, which makes for an interesting production. I also feel compelled to offer additional, specific praise for the quartet of dancers in the second scene of Act II, gamboling and capering about on the dais. Keep an eye there after the bulls come out for some sexy crossdressing and great choreography to go with it (what could be bad?). It was also nice to see Iain McNeill, who I first saw at the Centre Stage gala a few years ago before he joined the Ensemble Studio, returning in a small role as the Marquis.
All in all, I honestly can’t say enough good things about this production of La Traviata, especially with this cast. If it were at all within my character, I could just as well have appended a forest of exclamation marks to the sentences above, such is my enthusiasm for the entire business. Go. Just go.
- La Traviata plays at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen W until October 31st with alternating casts.
- Tickets range in price from $35 to $239, with discounted tickets available for youth through the COC Opera Under 30 program.
- Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 416.363.8361
Photo of Quinn Kelsey as Germont and Ekaterina Siurina as Violetta by Michael Cooper