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Lyric Opera to present 'La Traviata'

Sept. 4, 2003

By Leanna Pate, reporter

Star-crossed lovers, betrayal, feuding families - no, it's not a new show on the FOX network. These are the themes of the Lyric Opera of Waco's season opener, Verdi's La Traviata. La Traviata, Italian for 'the lost one,' begins its two-show run at 8 p.m. today in Waco Hall.

The opera follows the story of Violetta Valery, a courtesan living in 19-century Paris, played by soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs of New York. An admirer, Alfredo Germont, who is played by tenor Don Bernardini of Bern, Switzerland, pursues the young woman.

The drama unfolds as Violetta entertains several guests, including Alfredo, in her Paris salon.

Violetta fluctuates between her desire for freedom and the possibility that Alfredo might be her true love. When act two begins, Violetta and Alfredo are living happily in a country house near Paris. But Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont, played by baritone Peter Castaldi, demands that Violetta end her relationship with his son because of the adverse effect that it is having on his family.

'The family is more important,' Castaldi says.

Now penniless and destitute after losing all her possessions and Alfredo, Violetta returns to dank, dirty Paris, sick and alone. The surprising ending is just as emotional as the true story Verdi used as inspiration. Fans of the movie the Moulin Rouge, which took much of its story from the opera, will also enjoy La Traviata.

Under the stage direction of Carol Castel, and with the aid of the Lyric Opera founder, artistic director and conductor, Richard Aslanian, the audience is presented with a gorgeous story. Blancke-Biggs adds passion to the stage as she reprises her role of Violetta after finishing a run at the acclaimed Metropolitan Opera in New York. Encompassing the basic concepts of love and betrayal, 'everyone in the whole audience can relate to it,' Blancke-Biggs says.

Different than other operas of its time, La Traviata was one of the only operas done where the dress was contemporary. 'It's not about wars,' Castaldi says. 'It's one of the first soap opera, and it's about normal people.'

Fully staged with an orchestra, cast and crew of more than 100 people, La Traviata will also be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday in Waco Hall.

Patrons also are invited to attend the 'Opera Chat' from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m. in Roxy Grove Hall prior to the start of both operas. The chat will offer an entertaining and informative preview of the night's performance.

Those who attend the opera should not be intimidated. According to the Lyric Opera's Web site, anything from jeans to tuxedos is acceptable attire, and a translation of the opera also is provided via superscript, a projection of the translation above the stage.

'Even though everything is in Italian, [the audience] is still able to follow word by word,' Aslanian says.

As an added treat for music students, Aslanian promises double recital credit.

'Preparing for an opera is like preparing a delicious meal - it requires a great recipe and great ingredients,' Jane Bays, president of the Lyric Opera, said on its Web site. 'I promise you a feast of entertainment at La Traviata under the capable direction of Maestro Richard Aslanian. He takes great care in selecting the perfect blend of voices, seasoned by the carefully conducted orchestra, complemented by the efforts of the backstage personnel and presented especially for you.'

Tickets should be purchased in advance for best seats, but they still will be available the day of the opera.

Tickets can be purchased through the Lyric Opera by phone at 75-OPERA (756-7372), or they can be bought at the Waco Hall Box Office. Ticket prices range from $10 to $80.