The Société d’art lyrique du Royaume (SALR) presents Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata opera at Saguenay’s Théâtre Banque Nationale on Feb. 7, 9 and 10. Performed in the original Italian – a first for the company – the opera is accompanied by French subtitles to facilitate comprehension.
La Traviata, one of the world’s most famous operas, is a true masterpiece of the genre. The three principal roles are performed by Stéphanie Lessard, soprano (Violetta); Jean-Michel Richer, tenor (Alfredo); and Dion Mazerolle, baritone (Germont). Jean-Philippe Tremblay leads the 20 musicians of the Orchestre symphonique de Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean; Rodrigue Villeneuve is responsible for direction and set design.
“Since Mr. Villeneuve comes from a theatrical background,” Dion Mazerolle explains, “the staging focuses on the interactions between the characters. The intimate venue, with the close proximity of the audience, allows us to go into detail and avoid typical, grand operatic gestures.” Richer adds: “What’s most important in this work is its human aspect. The focus is on the characters’ conversations and emotional challenges.”
The production allows audiences to delve deeper into the emotions felt by the principal characters. “The music and the main melodies are striking in their dramatic cohesion, and in the authenticity of the characters’ expression,” says Tremblay. Inspired by La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils, the story remains universal and relatable: a profound love over which passion and reason clash.
Richer summarizes the plot: “This is the story of a young woman who wants to live fully and be the master of her own destiny, but that destiny is working against her. Alfredo and Germont are dragged into this fight against fate. The thing that gives La Traviata its power as a work of art is the fact that it is full of primal emotions and challenges that we all experience. Everyone can form a connection the characters.”
It is in this light that we discover a Violetta who is so much stronger than we could have imagined. “This is a businesswoman who successfully took herself from poverty to material wealth,” explains Lessard, who sings the role for the first time. “She is in control and conscious of the power she holds over men. This is also a woman of heart who loves celebration and joy, despite her fragile health.” She adds: “Her meeting with Alfredo lets her discover what true, pure, authentic love is, and then she asks herself what a life is worth without that love.”
Tremblay concludes: “From the very first notes of the prelude, we are immersed in an intimacy that holds us throughout the whole opera. The music is magical in its finesse and in the dramatic colouring that Verdi applies so masterfully.”
Translation by Janessa Culliford
La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, presented by the Société d’art lyrique du Royaume at the Théâtre Banque Nationale on Feb. 7 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and on February 10 at 2 p.m. www.salr.ca www.diffusion.saguenay.ca