James Valenti, the handsome and vocally strong young American tenor seen in the photo above from his web site, made his Metropolitan Opera debut last night in the Met's 953 performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata." I was especially excited to see Mr. Valenti perform the role of Alfredo, because in an unusual "six degrees of separation" experience, I first learned about this native New Jersey tenor through his mother. She is a reader of my blog, and in December she was nice enough to inform me in an e-mail about her son's upcoming Met debut. She does not have her own blog, and does not usually make comments, but since she knew I was an opera fan, and that I often attended the Metropolitan Opera, she thought I might be interested to attend one of James' performances.
Although our selections of operas for this season were finished, my husband and I were lucky enough to be able to purchase tickets to the opening night of La Traviata, along with tickets for our daughter. This photo was taken last night of us standing in front of the fountain in the Lincoln Center plaza, before we went inside the opera house.
We were also happy to be able to see the beautiful and lavish Franco Zeffirelli La Traviata production one last time, as this is its final season, and next year the new production of La Traviata by Willy Decker will be set in modern times, with modern dress and sparser sets. Actually, according to the Playbill program that I read last night, Verdi intended La Traviata to be in modern dress, when he wrote it in 1853, so the new production will be an interesting interpretation to see next year.
As always, I had to stop to look at vintage opera costumes on display in the opera house -- this one was worn by Jerome Hines as Sarastro in Mozart's Die Zauberflote, between 1958 to 1979.
This costume, designed by Mark Chagall, was worn by Lucia Popp in the role of the Queen of the Night, also in Mozart's Die Zauberflote It was worn between 1967 and 1970.
Looking up at the opera house's atrium's chandelier's from the Family Circle balcony.
Looking out at the plaza during a very rainy night. New York City has received over eight inches of rain in the past few days!
A close up of the atrium's Swarovski crystal chandeliers. This could have been a photo of my excited eyes sparkling as I watched the beautiful soprano Angela Gheorghiu portray the young and tragic heroine Violetta. La Traviata literally translates to "The Fallen One," and is a tale about a young Parisian courtesan who becomes genuinely and passionately loved by Alfredo. Although at first resistant to his attention, as Violetta knows she suffers from a fatal disease and therefore wants to enjoy life and stay free, Violetta finally falls in love for the first time with Alfredo. They go off to live in the countryside, where Alfredo sings of his joy in the aria: "De miei bollenti spiriti – "Wild my dream of ecstasy!" Mr. Valenti gave a strong and passionate rendidtion of this aria and received a long and thunderous applause from the appreciative Met audience!
Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont, expertly played by baritone Thomas Hampson, visits them and pleads with Violetta to send Alfredo back home as he has disgraced the family and this will prevent his sister from getting married. A heartbroken Violetta relents and unselfishly writes a farewell note to Alfredo. Before he receives it, a heartbroken Violetta sings: "Amami Alfredo – "Love me, Alfredo."
Of course, as with many Italian operas, love conquers, but the ending is tragic.The entire synopsis of La Traviata can be read on the Metropolitan Opera's web site here.
A view of the Metropolitan Opera house during an intermission. Our seats were in the Family Circle tier, the highest tier in the house as this opera was destined to be completely sold out, and since we bought our tickets late, we were happy to sit anywhere! The acoustics are wonderful in this section, however, and I always bring a small pair of binoculars in order to see the performers better. The Met has a system where you can read the lyrics of the arias as they are being sung by a device which is situated on the back of the chair rail in front of each seat. Appreciation of the opera is enhanced this way, and I often read along, but La Traviata was the first opera I was introduced to by a high school music teacher who was ardently in love with Violetta and Alfredo, and by the end of our music semester her entire class, especially myself, was equally in love with them. I have listened to my recording of Beverly Sills singing the role of Violetta so many times over 35 years that I feel I know this opera by heart, and the haunting first violin strains from the orchestra in the prelude never ceases to give me chills of anticipation.
The conductor was Leonard Statkin, and he admitted to not having conducted La Traviata before in his career on his web site blog. While I thought the orchestra performed up to par last night, The New York Times review of the performance was somewhat scathing in his review of Statkin.
Meanwhile, the New York Times review of James Valenti was this: "The young American tenor James Valenti had a solid success in his Met debut as Alfredo. He is tall (over 6 feet 5 inches), handsome and physically agile: qualities reflected in his virile and attractive singing. His voice is not huge, but it carries well. He won a rousing ovation." I was certainly one of those giving him a rousing ovation throughout his performances!
Thoma Hampson, Angela Gheorghiu, James Valenti and Leonard Slatkin taking bows at the conclusion of La Traviata.
It was an exciting opera night and I was thrilled to feel a part of the debut of a rising star in opera! I wish James Valenti much success in his career and urge you to listen to samples of his past performances in other opera houses around the country, and the world, on his web site at this link, and I'm sure you will also become his fan!
I'm linking this post to "Outdoor Wednesday" at A Southern Daydreamer's blog. Thanks Susan!