Last week I made off to yet another La Traviata, a concert version, no less. As I took my seat (in the Marc A. Scorca Hall at the National Opera Center of Opera America), I was unprepared for the startling performance that kept me stimulated, both mentally and aurally, for the whole of the show. It was not merely a concert version—everyone was off book and in action, with the young women wearing eye popping, elegant gowns. That would have been more than sufficient, but…
The audience at Deal, New Jersey’s, Axelrod Performing Arts Center (on a subscription series that also includes the great Kelly O'Hara, legendary violinist Joshua Bell, popular jazz singer, Janice Siegel and touring companies of Ain't Misbehavin’ and Jekyll & Hyde) will be treated to a fully staged and costumed production on September 9th at 8: PM and September 10th at 3: PM. The combination of Andrea DelGiudice’s (International Soprano and sought after voice teacher) new reading, and Jason Tramm’s exciting, traditional conducting, plus the strong singing from the principals made me remember why I fell in love with opera to begin with.
I chatted with Andrea, Jason and with the company’s Artistic Consultant, Peter Randsman, and asked Peter how all this came about. Randsman helped to found the company, at the request of DelGiudice. He, like Andrea, wears many hats, as he runs a thriving opera agency and knows more about the art form than anyone I have come across in my music filled life. He also has a fine baritone voice that he essentially hides from the world!
Melody: What exactly is your role in the company, as “Consultant?”
Peter: As a kid I went to the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera to hear "Golden Age" singers in their primes, committing to all aspects of the total "gestalt" of the craft that made them "Stars." That obviously included painstaking attention to vocal technique and each specific style they were called upon to sing in, but also stressed the importance of clear, clean and emphatic execution of "DICTION." At NYOC we make sure all of the above are in check, "and then some." Through an arduous and energetic rehearsal period, as each one of these above listed aspects come to life, we aspire to offer performances that are expressive and moving, both vocally and dramatically.
Melody: Andrea, while staying faithful to the text, you have inserted a contemporary bent into the story. What is your take on Violetta’s plight?
Andrea: Departing from the original setting, on the outskirts of 19th century Paris, I have drawn my inspiration for La Traviata from the Alexander Dumas Fils novel, “The Lady of the Camellias” and Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” Violetta’s journey (really a timeless story) is set in modern day New York City, while telling the story of a young girl’s (played by two singing/actresses) struggle with schizophrenia through the lens of looking back at her life within the confines of Bellevue. Her schizophrenia was represented by the “characters” who still exist in the room with her daily, and although we see Violetta’s despair and isolation, her true depth is revealed through her memories of strength and sacrifice. Thus, she breaks from “Living in The Bell Jar,” and the prison of her mind is opened.
Melody: Does she die happy?
Andrea: Actually, Violetta, does not die. What the audience comes away with is that the story is "time passing" and Violetta is experiencing these delusions over and over. But these days an “educated” schizophrenic can learn that delusions are just that, not real, and accept that that it is a condition which can be lived with— managed. Violetta survives...she is a survivor, always. And that is what makes La Traviata timeless.
Melody: Jason, where did you get your energetic flair and organic fit with opera, especially Verdi?
Jason: I was a protégé of the late Alfredo Silipigni, who was certainly “Old School,” and fully connected to the operatic traditions. I served as Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor and eventually for “The Maestro” for years traveling with him an absorbing his energy.
With that short answer, I could see why Jason’s performance was filled with such Italianate passion. When I asked Peter what operas he had in mind for the future, his list was endless, filled with classics and some lesser known pieces. I look forward to seeing the The New York Opera Collaborative thrive as they deservedly and almost inevitable seem on the road to achieving.
The cast stars Susanne Burgess and Ashley Bell as Violetta, Christopher Nelson as Alfredo and Jonathan Scott as Germont. Set design by Fred Sorrentino.
Final performances are on September 9th at 8: PM and September 10th at 3: PM
TICKETS: Premium Adult $42; Premium Senior $39; Regular Adult $38; Regular Senior $35 in Deal, New Jersey’s, Axelrod Performing Arts Center…100 Grant Avenue…732-531-9106