‘La Traviata’ worth the trip to Reno | NevadaAppeal.com

‘La Traviata’ worth the trip to Reno

Sam Bauman
Appeal Staff Writer

When the subject of opera comes up in most American conversation, it is either preceded by the word “soap” or by a derisive laugh. But opera, preceded by the word “grand,” continues to be performed year after year.

A perfect example of why is on display tonight in the Pioneer Performing Arts Center in Reno when Nevada Opera presents at 8 p.m. the second and last performance of “La Traviata,” Verdi’s enduring masterpiece. This is one of opera’s classic stories, that of a courtesan who falls in love with a young admirer. (A courtesan in this context is a woman who accepts gifts from her lover, but is not a prostitute.)

And in the grand tradition of such as Puccini’s “La Boheme,” the courtesan Violetta suffers from a life-threatening illness. In Act 1, in the midst of a gala party (cast of thousands comes to mind) Violetta becomes ill and sends her many guests off to dinner while she recovers.

In wanders Alfredo, who has loved her from afar for some time. He confesses his love for her, which she at first dismisses loftily. But she thinks again, and the story begins.

No need to sum up the plot for you, but it carries on to the predictable tragic ending.

This is a fine cast, with handsome Diane Alexander as Violetta (no bulky soprano is she) and Chad Shelton, an operatic utility infielder, subbing for the ailing Tibetan tenor Dorji Ciren. It’s quite a change to hear the human voice unamplified for a change, and in this case both voices are fine.

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Almost upstaging them is baritone Dennis Jesse as Alfredo’s stern father. He has a strong pitch-accurate voice as he lays down his son’s duties to Violetta. He is well matched by Alissa Anderson as Flora, Violetta’s friend. Olivia Anderson of Reno is Violetta’s maid Annina.

There are several other local voices in the opera: Lawrence D. Clawson as Doctor Grenvil, Steven Meyer as the marquis, Rick Cornell as Baron Douphol, Rick Michaelson as Flora’s servant, R. Steven Murdoch as the viscount, all of Reno; Andy Sonnemaker as Guiseppe, of Sparks; and Anthony Re as a messenger, from Incline Village.

Kyle Marrero directs and Michael Borowitz is artistic director and conductor of the Nevada Opera Orchestra.

Even if you don’t know anything about opera, “La Traviata” is a fine place to start. The projected supertitles will keep you abreast of the story, although you don’t really need them; the slick program explains all. The melodies are memorable, the music delicate (as in the overture) and lusty, as during the ballet sequence. And, as mentioned before, when was the last time you went to a public musical performance where there wasn’t a loudspeaker between you and the artist?

• Contact Sam Bauman at sbauman@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1236.