REVIEW: Opera Philadelphia’s La Traviata

A scene from "La Traviata."

A scene from “La Traviata.”

The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be Lisette Oropesa … or, at least, she’s the name on everybody’s lips who sat through Friday night’s opening performance of Opera Philadelphia’s La Traviata.

In fact, Ms. Oropesa, the dramatic soprano who stars in the staging at the Academy of Music, brings so much gusto, so much soul to her Violetta, that it is sort of a miracle that the entire stage doesn’t blow up at the end of the three-hour show. Yes, she’s that good, and I’ve never seen an Opera Philadelphia audience react with such fervor to a performer in recent memory.

The deal seemed to be sealed once Ms. Oropesa hit her signature Act 1 aria, “Sempre Libera.” The audience loved her, but her performance grew in intensity as the night went along. Come the final scene, when our diva dies (surprise, surprise: it’s a dramatic Verdi opera, people), the audience just went absolutely crazy. Part of Ms. Oropesa’s appeal is that, besides being a gorgeous singer, she is a fine and smart actress. The earthy vulnerability she brought to Violetta was a truly intelligent element of her performance.

Alek Shrader and Lisette Oropesa in "La Traviata."

Alek Shrader and Lisette Oropesa in “La Traviata.”

She was joined by Stephen Powell as her Germont, who tackled the hard-to-like father of Violetta’s lover with a much softer heart than audiences are accustomed to. His Act 2 duet with Ms. Oropesa quite literally stopped the show on Friday evening, and there were plenty of whispers from the audience that it was the finest singing that the company brought to the Academy in a long time.

If there was one weak link in the cast, it was Alek Shrader’s Alfredo, who was, at times, a little hard on the ears and awkwardly staged in the otherwise handsome production by Scottish director Paul Curran. The ensemble cast was also quite good, including Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artists Andrew Bogard, Roy Hage, Jarrett Ott, and Rachel Sterrenberg.

During Friday evening’s curtain call, it was clear that Ms. Oropesa was visibly moved by the overwhelming ovation she received from the Academy audience. If that’s any indication, the company needs to sign the in-demand soprano for another production in a future season, and quick. She’s the real deal.

‘La Traviata’ plays through October 11th. For more information, click here.