Opera Review: ‘La Traviata’ at the Hult Center

January 2, 2014 Updated: January 2, 2014

EUGENE, Ore.—New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2013, ushered in opening night of Verdi’s immortal opera, La Traviata, in teeming-with-arts Eugene, Oregon.

Eugene Opera’s present home in Eugene’s elegant Hult Center for the Performing Arts is a far cry from the company’s beginnings in 1976, where a few hundred witnessed a performance at a high school auditorium.

Now in its 37th season, under general director Mark Beudert since 2006, the company has not only presented major classics by Verdi, Puccini, etc., but has recently expanded into more adventurous territory, exemplified by recent productions of Nixon in China and Dead Man Walking.

For La Traviata three visiting stars have joined the company: soprano Leah Partridge portrays Violetta, a courtesan, who suffers from tuberculosis; tenor Vale Rideout plays her lover, Alfredo; bass-baritone Jake Gardner portrays Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont.

All three have enjoyed national and international assignments with major opera companies, as well as recording stints.

La Traviata is particularly melodic, and full of dramatic tension and surprises. Briefly, on meeting Alfredo, Violetta falls head-over-heels in love with him and decides to give up her flirtatious ways.

The attraction is mutual; however, Alfredo’s father throws a damper on the couple’s relationship and insists Violetta give up his son. Violetta nobly agrees, lying to Alfredo that she loves another.

In the end, the truth comes out; the lovers reunite, but it is too late. Violetta, overcome by her disease, dies in Alfredo’s arms.

Leah Partridge’s soprano soars with power and sensitivity; her coloratura passages are particularly precise. An added plus: She is stunning to look at, moves beautifully, and, as is the case, fortunately, with many current singers, she is a fine singing-actress.  

Vale Rideout makes an excellent partner for Ms. Partridge. His voice is mellifluous; he conveys caring and concern for his vis-a-vis. Jake Gardner is a standout: His voice conveys power and authority, a perfect match in every way for the role of Germont.

The stage director is Bill Fabris. Music director Andrew Bisantz returns for his sixth season. Mr. Bisantz supplied an added fillip by presenting a pre-show talk on the genesis of Verdi’s La Traviata.

For those who may not know, the opera was inspired by Verdi’s appreciation of Alexander Dumas the younger’s novel, La Dame aux camelias, which developed into Camille. (Remember the film with Greta Garbo?)

This production of La Traviata offers a welcome addition to the roster of Eugene Opera presentations. The production will have two more performances: Jan. 3, 2014 and Jan. 5, 2014.

For tickets and further information: 541-682-5000, or eugeneopera.com

The season concludes in March, 2014 with Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West,” featuring three Metropolitan Opera stars: Emily Pulley, Raúl Melo, and Aaron St. Clair Nicholson.

Diana Barth writes and publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information: diabarth@juno.com.