in: Reviews

March 8, 2011

Goodbye, Opera Warhorses at Reasonable Price?

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Snejana Dramtcheva as Violetta laments the absence of her beloved Alfredo and expresses her fears that she will never see him again (Teatro Lyrico file photo)

Teatro Lirico d’Europa enhanced Boston’s touch of Spring over the weekend with its production of Giuseppe’s Verdi’s La Travaiata at the Emerson Majestic. Sadly, the single performance on Saturday (March 5) is the last scheduled appearance in Boston for this endearing company who have been coming here for the past ten years.

Producer Jenny Kelly Lalov says that Arts Emerson have notified Teatro Lirico that the Majestic will not be available to them in the future. The company cannot afford to perform in a union house, and is seeking another university-affiliated theatre in the area with good acoustics and a capacity of 700 to 800 seats. The quality of the singing alone at their “farewell performance” should send local impresarios scrambling to find them a new home.

Snejana Dramtcheva brought a big, warm, and wonderfully modulated soprano to her portrayal of Violetta, the fallen woman of the title of this most tuneful of operas. Her buoyant sensuality in her early duet with Orlin Goranov as Alfredo, Un di, felice, eterea, was made all the more memorable by the aching pathos of her Act III aria Addio del passato, as Violetta feels her life slip away.

She played Violetta as a strong woman who is determined to overcome her tuberculosis as resolutely as she has dealt with other unspecified crises in her past. Dramtcheva also happens to be an especially beautiful woman. It is easy to see why Alfredo would go crazy for the love of her sexy and determined Violetta. Dramtcheva gave real emotional heft to Franceso Piave’s fast-moving, frequently melodramatic 1853 libretto.

Like the other principals, Dramtcheva is a native of Bulgaria and has performed an impressive roster of roles across Europe. She has performed in Boston before with Teatro Lirico as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and as Valencienne in The Merry Widow. Let’s hope she comes back.

Goranov has an appealing tenor whose voice ascends with a seeming effortlessness. But the passion fills his singing is curiously absent from his acting. He presents himself as an Alfredo who is more amiable than love-struck. Yet, in his duets with Dramtcheva, like Ditte alla giovine, the two of them spark genuine emotion.

Plamen Dimitrov performed the thankless role of Alfredo’s father, Germont, with the fullness that has made the singing of the basses and baritones of his native Bulgaria a world treasure. The sweetness of his aria Pura siccome un angelo could melt any heart, even that of the headstrong Violetta. As with Orlin, his duets with Dramtcheva were moments of true operatic pleasure, to which the audience responded enthusiastically.

Dimitrov is a not a great actor: more “stand and deliver” than actually engaging in his character. He also appears much too young for Germont, despite the efforts to gray his hair. Indeed, he looked like he should be out carousing with Alfredo instead of giving him fatherly reprimands. But his singing is solid and a joy to hear.

Conductor Christian DeLiso, an Italian, led a small orchestra which, apart from a few wayward strings in the early moments, provided well balanced, well paced complement to the singers.

As always with Teatro Lirico, scenery and costumes look more Goodwill than La Scala. Lighting is barebones. Direction is minimal. Fan fluttering among the chorus ladies in this La Traviata was so fierce that a round of Cole Porter’s Too Damn Hot would not have been out of place. But it is easy to overlook the company’s shortcomings if for no other reason than the enthusiasm and good music-making that have always been at the core of its productions.

Orlin Goranov and Snejana Dramtcheva as the impassioned lovers Alfredo and Violetta (Teatro Lyrico file photo)

Teatro Lirico has filled a void in the Boston opera scene, as local companies commendably seek out works that are less frequently performed. By trooping the old warhorses through town and offering them at reasonable prices, they have provided a real service to opera lovers here who are more inclined to the familiar and beloved melodies of Puccini and Bizet than the undiscovered excitement Hindemith and Shostakovich.

The good news is that Teatro Lirico is thriving everywhere else. Indeed, another of its casts presenting Turandot wowed a sold-out Palace Theatre in Manchester, New Hampshire, the night after La Traviata played the Emerson.

Regrettably, ticket sales for La Traviata were well below what they might have been owing to a mix-up on season ticket sales, website addresses and box office locations as ArtsEmerson took over the management of The Majestic. But producer Jenny Kelly Lalov, the wife of the co-founder of Teatro Lirico Giorgio Lalov, noted in a telephone interview from the company’s base outside Baltimore that the biggest problem in Boston was the absence from the airwaves of classical music on WGBH radio. She stated that Teatro Lirico used to sell out based on the support from WGBH. Since the has relegated its classical music programming to the poor signal of its Lowell antennas, however, ticket sales have dropped dramatically.

Come on, opera lovers, let’s get together and find a way to make sure these folks come back for many years to come.

Stephen Landrigan is a former print journalist and concert presenter.

2 Comments

  1. Dear Readers-

    I believe that it was naive for Jenny Kelly Lalov, the wife of the co-founder of Teatro Lirico Giorgio Lalov, to lay the blame for the poor attendance at the recent performance of La Traviata at the feet of WGBH radio. I say this for multiple reasons:

    I did not see any posters or publicity for the event.
    BMInt did not receive a press release.
    At least 2.5 times as many classical listeners tune in to WCRB as had listened to classical programming on WGBH.
    My sources tell me that Teatro Lyrico chose not to buy any infomercials on WCRB for this production or engage with them for any news coverage.

    Lee Eiseman, publisher

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — March 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

  2. Apologies to all if my review of Teatro Lirico d’Europa’s production of La Traviata gave the impression that a paucity of radio promotion as the major reason for the lack of a sell-out. In my conversation with producer Jenny Kelly Lalov, she listed that as one issue among many that have dogged the company in Boston this year. A greater factor was the shift some months ago of the management of The Cutler Majestic to ArtsEmerson and the confusion which that caused with season subscription and website sales.

    Comment by Steve Landrigan — March 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm

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