Beginners Go To the Opera
Every summer the finale of the eight-week SOLT Opera Workshop is the presentation of the operas. On Friday my friend Patricia and I saw La Traviata which, along with Ernest, The Importance of Being, and Riders to the Sea & Gianni Schicchi, is one of this year’s offerings.
I’ve always found the idea of opera intimidating. I don’t know enough about music to provide a critique of it. I really am ‘I know what I like’ when it comes to voices. Patricia knows more about music, but not opera, so we went with open minds and no experience. We both really enjoyed it.
La Traviata is by Verdi and is what I would consider a classic opera as opposed to a modern opera. The libretto is by Franco Maria Piave who worked with Verdi on ten operas. It was a thankless task being the librettist for Verdi, I doubt that anyone really cares that much about the story. Maybe they used to, but now it’s about the music; about the voices.
For anyone who wants to follow the story, this production was performed in English. I imagine that the others will be as well.
To my untrained ear, the voices on Friday sounded great. One in particular stood out for both of us; Cristina Pisiani as Violetta. Her voice seemed to soar over the others as if the theatre was too small to contain it. It was beautiful.
Acting is important too, and I loved Karina Bray as Flora. Her moves and facial expressions in the party scenes were delightful.
Guillermo Silva-Marin’s set was fairly minimal; just enough to suggest the setting. My favourites were the country cottage with its wicker settee, chair, desk, and pots of flowers on pedestals, and the final scene where Violetta has lost everything. All that’s in the room is a wooden chair with a small side table and a bed.
The cast all wore modern-dress, but it was neutral enough that it was timeless, especially in the party scenes which were quite lovely. The women’s jewellery glittered brightly and their gowns were gorgeous, particularly in the second party scene. Pisiani wore a black strapless number that – if I were 20 years younger – I’d be asking to borrow.
La Traviata was an evening well spent. We both really enjoyed it. I’d definitely go to another opera. We did find the English a bit clunky, but If we were Italian and heard it in Italian, I imagine we’d find that clunky too. Singing “Please bring me water” just doesn’t flow.
If you’re curious about opera but have stayed away because of the ticket prices and the intimidation factor, this is a great place to start. It’s at Robert Gill Theatre, the tickets are reasonable, and the audience is there for the opera and won’t care how you’re dressed.
- La Traviata is playing until August 3 at the Robert Gill Theatre* (214 College St)
- Performances are July 26 (8 pm), July 28 (2 pm), July 31 (2 pm), August 3 (8 pm)
- Tickets are $28 includes HST, Students & Seniors: $22 (ID required) Subscription price: $60 for 3 performances
additional fees apply for online and phone orders
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-366-7723, and in person at the box office.
*Robert Gill Theatre is accessible
Photo of Anna Wojcik, Cristine Pisani,and Joshua Clemenger by Emily Ding