Rising tenor Chang impresses in WNO’s second-cast “Traviata”

Mon Oct 08, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Mario Chang and Jacqueline Echols in Sunday’s “La Traviata” performance at Washington National Opera. Photo: Scott Suchman

A second viewing of an opera production deepens one’s understanding of the staging and music-making on display. An opportunity to reassess Washington National Opera’s new production of Verdi’s La Traviata came quickly, when three new singers took over the principal roles Sunday afternoon. 

The runaway surprise was Mario Chang, whose last-minute substitution saved the NSO’s Rosenkavalier in 2014, the same year that the Guatemalan tenor won the Operalia competition. With a heroic fortitude in the voice and solid confidence in the role, his Alfredo inspired sympathy and admiration. In a pleasing return, baritone Michael Chioldi’s voice has grown and ripened into something quite powerful since his appearance in WNO’s Lucia in 2011. Tall and ramrod straight of spine, he growled and threatened as Germont.

WNO is showcasing a favorite former apprentice singer, Detroit-born soprano Jacqueline Echols. The golden lyric side of her voice shone in Violetta’s tender arias, like the fourth act’s “Addio del passato.” 

In WNO’s Dead Man Walking in 2017, Echols showed she had added some dramatic weight to her voice, but still not enough to have the full range needed for the more demanding parts of this role, like the high note she avoided at the end of the Act I scena. None of that mattered, however, in Echols’ supremely poignant death scene, something to be cherished for its subtlety and emotional range.

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