Young singers and conductor impress in Wolf Trap Opera’s “Traviata”

Sat Jul 16, 2022 at 12:45 pm
By Evan Tucker

Chanáe Curtis and Richard Trey Smagur starred in Verdi’s La Traviata at Wolf Trap Friday night. Photo: Scott Suchman

On Friday night, Wolf Trap Opera presented a performance of Verdi’s La Traviata that restored one’s faith in live opera productions: a completely traditional staging with excellent soloists and an extraordinary conductor, presented to a packed house—with many young people in attendance—under the stars.

As Violetta, Chanáe Curtis showed herself to be a magnificent singer as well as a convincing actress. Her soprano is a shade too light for Violetta, but her voice grew as the night progressed, and by the final two acts its power was a marvel. Although her interpretation abounded with health even when Violetta is lethally ill, Curtis threw herself passionately into Violetta’s plight and made us feel the full weight of her suffering. 

Richard Trey Smagur displayed a low-lying tenor as Alfredo that was almost baritonal and he struggled at times with music in the higher reaches. Nevertheless he has a wonderful feel for the Verdi idiom with ardent acting, imaginative phrasing, and dynamic nuance.

Chanáe Curtis as Violetta and Kidon Choi as Germont in Wolf Trap Opera’s performance of La Traviata. Photo: Scott Suchman

Kidon Choi brought the most all-around pleasurabale singing of the evening as Germont, Alfredo’s father. While his acting was unremarkable, Choi is that rarest of singers, a true Verdi baritone—with a range, flexibility and opulence. His rendition of “Di Provenza il mar” was most impressive and Choi gave the impression he had the stamina to repeat the aria and the entire opera with no problem.

Conductor Roberto Kalb elicited a responsive and colorful performance from the National Symphony Orchestra, drawing an impressive degree of alertness, detailing and balance. The chorus had a bit of difficulty amid the third act’s gypsy flamboyance, but otherwise the Mexican conductor had the ensemble singing beautifully.

Wolf Trap’s young studio artists were featured to wonderful effect in supporting roles, particularly Saane Halaholo as Annina and Dylan Gregg as Doctor Grenvil. 

The production itself was replete with traditional sets and costumes, and stage director Emma Griffin concentrated on putting the opera’s drama and singers in the best possible light. In an era of stage directors replacing the composer’s vision with one of their own, that is a quality to be prized.

One Response to “Young singers and conductor impress in Wolf Trap Opera’s “Traviata””

  1. Posted Jul 19, 2022 at 8:09 am by Joe O

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the 3 wonderful soloists. Curtis and Choi in particular were wonderful!

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