Sparkle, Lisette, Sparkle!: Opera Philadelphia’s Archival Production of La Traviata (for Parterre Box)

Cameron Kelsall: Opera Philadelphia launched its streaming platform, Opera Philadelphia Channel, back in October, and it quickly became an essential extension of the company’s forward-thinking artistic planning. The focus has largely been on contemporary music and new content, with offerings like Lawrence Brownlee’s wrenching performance of Cycles of My Being, the Tyshawn Corey–Terrance Hayes song cycle that Opera Philadelphia premiered in 2018, and a thoughtfully produced film of David T. Little’s Soldier Songs, shot on location at the Brandywine Conservancy. Amid all this, viewers can also revisit a 2015 production of La Traviata, captured on the Academy of Music stage, that’s notable for Lisette Oropesa’s debut as Violetta Valéry. Oropesa has emerged as one of the role’s reigning interpreters in recent years, but it’s easy to forget that at the time, her decision to essay the part was treated with some trepidation. (She’d mostly been singing -ina and -etta roles up until then.) David, you and I both saw this performance in-house six years ago, and we both returned to it this week at home. How do your thoughts stack up then and now?

David Fox: I remember that evening so well! I saw it opening night—in fact, I’d been the pre-opera speaker for that, though I had not seen any rehearsals, nor did I know much about Lisette Oropesa beyond her name. If I’d heard her, it was as Woglinde in Rheingold, which of course is quite a different challenge. Anyway, I recall that from the very first minutes, I felt a kind of electricity that suggested something of international stature was happening—across the board, but in her performance especially. As we both know, much is often made by aficionados of the kind of steeplechase nature of Violetta—the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic soprano aspects of the vocal writing, and of course the acting challenges as well. I sometimes think we over-fetishize this role in particular, but the fact is it’s rare for any soprano to fully embrace all aspects. And that’s what happened here. In passage after passage, Oropesa had full mastery of every part of it. I noticed it even in the Brindisi, where every turn simply sparkled. And it built from there. Honestly, when you suggested we write about it, I was both excited and reluctant. I hadn’t watched the video because I didn’t want to discover I’d over-praised her performance. But indeed, it looks as great as I remembered.

Click here to read the full review on Parterre Box.

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