La Traviata or The Woman Who Strays

Boy meets girl.  Boy loves girl. Boy loses girl because she's from the wrong side of the tracks, and his family interferes...but will true love prevail in the end?  The idea of star-crossed, mismatched lovers been around for a while, from Love Story to Pretty in Pink, but most of the plots derive from the younger Alexandre Dumas (not the Three Musketeers author, but his son) who dramatized his own doomed love affair with a courtesan in a fabulously popular novel and play called The Lady of the Camellias. Better known in English as Camille, the title character became one of the primo roles for the great actresses of the 19th and 20th centuries; Greta Garbo was nominated for an Oscar for her 1936 film version. Great plays usually became great operas in those days, and composer Giuseppe Verdi adapted the basic Camille story into one of his best known and most popular works, La Traviata (loosely translated, the title means "the woman who strays," as in "away from the morality of society."  Or you could just call it "The Fallen Woman.")

Columbia audiences have a rare chance to see La Traviata live at the Koger Center this coming Saturday evening, March 3rd, at 7 PM, performed by the acclaimed Teatro Lirico D'Europa (.i.e. Lyric Theatre of Europe.)  Professional touring opera companies don't often come through Columbia these days; we recall seeing the Goldovsky Opera Theatre perform Traviata at the Township c. 1976, and this honestly may have been the first time this opera has been performed locally by a professional company since then.  Teatro Lirico D'Europa was founded in 1988, and is currently in the middle of their 13th consecutive season touring America. According to their press material, they have received rave reviews throughout the world, consistently appearing before sold out audiences.  The group is "noted for the brilliance and vitality of its talented international cast, realistic costumes and sets, and beautifully lit stages."  The Boston Globe wrote that ''audiences love this company," The St. Louis Classical Examiner hailed the performance of La Traviata as ''first rate," and The Heritage Theatre wrote that it was "amazed by the musicianship of both singers and orchestra." (Some additional reviews can be found at .)

Lest you think that this production will involve zaftig women in horned helmets brandishing spears, remember that this is not a Wagnerian nor even Mozart an opera.  Verdi was/is one of the more accessible classical composers, and you'd recognize any number of his melodies and motifs in the backgrounds of various movies.  The light, peppy clarinet music in the Godfather films for example.  Ever been to Italy?  Remember the bearded guy on the thousand-lira note, i.e. the equivalent of the dollar bill?  That was him.  He was that important. The story here is pretty accessible too, especially since we think Blake Carrington tried something similar in 3rd or 4th season Dynasty, sabotaging his son's romance with a shady lady.  So if you've ever been curious about how real opera really works, here's your chance to see as good as it gets - one ranking lists La Traviata as the second-most frequently performed opera there is.

The lead role of Violetta, the bad girl with the proverbial heart of gold, is sung by Olga Orlovskaya, a beautiful young dramatic coloratura soprano who graduated with honors from the Russian Academy of Music. She was a special prizewinner of the international completion in Operetta Land for best performance in 2008 in Moscow.  Ms. Orlovskaya has performed solo concerts in Paris, Dresden, Brussels, Luxembourg, and Geneva. She made her debut in the United States in 2006 with the role of Adele in Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus with the Stanislavsky Opera of Moscow in a fifty-city tour.  She is the founder and artistic director of the quartet The Russian Sopranos, and is now a U.S. citizen, based in Maryland.  She made her debut with Teatro Lirico D’Europa during its fall 2010/winter 2011 USA tours as Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermore to outstanding critical acclaim.

We have our own local Palmetto Opera to thank for this production.  Founded in 2001, The Palmetto Opera is dedicated to bringing professional opera to South Carolina. In addition to arranging shows like this one, they also sponsor Opera Nights at a number of local restaurants, where guests are treated to a special dinner, and arias from well-known operas performed live.  This in fact has become a regular part of First Thursdays at Villa Tronco, at 1213 Blanding Street, just across the street from the Tapp's Art Center. (Call (803) 256-7677 for details on Opera Night at Villa Tronco.)  The owner of  Villa Tronco, Carmella Roche, will actually be making a cameo appearance on stage in La Traviata in a party scene, along with other local celebrities, including Jim Welch (host of ETV's Nature Scene)  former Lexington City Council member Constance Fleming, and Karen Alexander (founder of the Auntie Karen Foundation.)  For more information on The Palmetto Opera, contact Kathy Newman at 803-776-9499 or Tickets for La Traviata may be obtained at the Koger Center Box Office, online at, or by phone at 803-251-2222.

August Krickel is the Theatre Editor for Jasper Magazine -- The Word on Columbia Arts

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