Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

La TraviataSarasota Opera
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Moon Over Buffalo and Oedipus

The Cast of La Traviata
Photo by Rod Millington
Sarasota Opera presents Verdi's La Traviata as its fall production. What we have here is a solid regional company production, but this opera begs for much more. La Traviata falls right in the middle of Verdi's operas, number 19 of 37, following closely on the heels of Rigoletto and Il Trovatore, part of what is thought of as the composer's middle period. In my opinion it is a very uneven opera; for sure it contains pages of music equal to Verdi's best (second half of Act I, most of Act II, Scene I and all of Act III), but it also has some extremely tedious, formulaic music. A world class soprano, and make no mistake La Traviata is the soprano's opera, will carry us through the uninteresting parts in a way that a lesser assumption of Violetta Valery (our heroine) won't. I realize that this is personal, but I would rather attend a performance of Luisa Miller or Stiffelio, two of Verdi's less popular operas. Both are much more even. Neither equals the best parts La Traviata but neither is boring for long stretches.

Elizabeth Tredent is our Violetta. She scores in all of the part's strongest moments, her "Ah fors'e lui" is radiant, I was thrilled to have both verses (when the opera is presented with cuts, one verse of this aria is jettisoned). The cabaletta "Sempre Libera" is fine, but Ms. Tredent is a lyric soprano, and cascades of coloratura don't show her off to best advantage. In the third Act, "Addio, del passato" (again both verses, thank you) is almost heartbreaking.

Andrew Surrena, our Alfredo on short notice, sings well, but the role is thankless. His aria at the top of Act II, "De' Miei Bollenti Spiriti," is generally regarded as Verdi's weakest tenor aria and the cabaletta is even less interesting. Let's just say that I have never heard a tenor sing this aria and cabaletta on a recital program. Rounding out our leading roles is Marco Nistico as Giorgio Germont. He is a company favorite and does a fine job with the grand duet between Germont and Violetta that makes up a big piece of Act II, Scene I. After that, he delivers a fine "Di Provenza," one of Verdi's more popular baritone arias.

Maestro Victor DeRenzi conducts a propulsive reading of the score, and Sarasota Orchestra, save for a few blemishes, plays very well for him. The Maestro may be the only living conductor to have played every single note that Verdi's wrote, all of the operas, including alternate versions of the same one over a 30 year span. He is known to be a stickler for Verdi's metronome markings, but I found the first half of Act I too much of a whirlwind and lacking in variety. Verdi was not a conductor, so maybe it is OK for an experienced one to shape some of the operas that need it.

La Traviata contains a number of small roles, taken by Studio Artists who, along with the Apprentice Artists, form the chorus for this chorus-heavy opera. They sing lustily but without as much finesse as I might like, sometimes not blending into the whole sound pallete.

Stephanie Sundine's stage direction seems limited to traffic control, and it is difficult to keep some of Violetta and her friend Flora's suiters straight. Ms. Tredent's acting is good, Mr. Nistico has been seen, dramatically, to better advantage in other roles, and Mr. Surrena is not a natural stage animal. I think all three might have been better with more focused directing. Two unnamed dancers from The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School contribute some visual delight to the choral music that opens Act II, Scene II, the gambling scene.

Howard Tsvi Kaplan is the costume coordinator, David Gano designs the settings. Lighting design is by Ken Yunker and is effective in several scenes, helping to focus our attention on where the action is occuring.

I have seen the standard repertory operas many times. Not everyone has been so blessed, and it is wonderful to have Sarasota Opera to give audiences a chance to see some of these masterpieces performed well. This production of La Traviata is a fine chance to be introduced to one of Giuseppe Verdi's most popular operas.

Sarasota Opera presents Verdi's La Traviata through November 21, 2017, at 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information call (941) 366-8450 or visit

Cast (in order of vocal appearance):
Violetta Valery: Elizabeth Tredent
Flora Bervoix: Laurel Semerdjian*
Annina: Anna Bridgman**
Alfredo Germont: Andrew Surrena
Giorgio Germont: Marco Nistico
Gastone, Viscount of Letorieres: Stephen Martin*
Baron Douphol: Jared A. Guest*
Marquis D'Obigny: Do Jin Jung**
Doctor Grenvil: Costas Tsourakis*
Giuseppe, Violetta's Servant: Tom Carle**
A Messenger: Jake Skipworth**
Flora's Servant: Alexander Henderson**
*=Studio Artist
**Apprentice Artist

Conductor: Victor DeRenzi
Stage Director: Stephanie Sundine
Scenic Designer: David Gano
Costume Coordinator: Howard Tsvi Kaplan
Lighting Designer: Ken Yunker
Hair & Make Up Designer: Brittany Rappise
Props Designer: Laura A. Walters
Chorus Master: Roger L. Bingaman
Assistant Conductors: John F. Spencer IV and Nicolo Sbuelz
Choreographer: Tania Vergara
Surtitle Supplier: Words for Music
Surtitle Translator: Victor DeRenzi