Tuesday, March 30, 2010

James Valenti Makes His Debut in La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera!

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!

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Ebie said...

What a promising young lad! And how beautiful those crystal chandeliers, they look like clusters of sparkling stars!

Pssst, management allowed you to take photos? Giggles!

Happy Easter!

Sherri said...

What a fun evening ( in spite of the rain!!) Those chandeliers are absolutely amazing! Have a great Outdoor Wednesday and enjoy the Easter weekend too! Sherri : )

Natasha said...

What a stunningly beautiful place. It looks like you had a truly wonderful experience. One day I would love to see an opera there...I will keep saving!

Best wishes,
Natasha (& Stacey & Holly).

Riet said...

What a beautiful place to visit and how wonderful to be able to go there for your favorite opera's. Those chandeliers are the most beautiful I ever saw.
Have a nice day

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat

What a handsome man and he sings too.... The Opera House looks beautiful. How kind of his mother to follow your blog and tell you about him appearing there.

We have had a LOT of rain here over the pond too!!

Lets hope it brightens up for the long weekend. Have a Happy Easter. Jackie in UK.

Trotter said...

Hi Pat! I'm always a bit concernes with «debuts» at the Met; had an awful experience with a soprano at «Lucia...». Not the Callas, indeed... ;))
The pictures are great. I miss NY... :-(

The Mayan ruins of Tulum are at Blogtrotter 2 for you to enjoy. Have a great week!!

M.Kate said...

Yep, very handsome indeed.Happy week Pat :)

Old Kitty said...


Oh he I am still swooning from the pic of James Valenti! What a handsome, handsome young man!


and great story of how you know of him! Wonderful! And what a brilliant review for him. His mum and family must be so so so proud!

My favourite pic of yours today are Swarovski's chandeliers - aren't they just absolutely beautiful?!?! Very nice!

And glad you got to saw the lavish production of La Traviata - I can't imagine a sparse version of it? Will you go to see that version? I just thought it would be an interesting contrast - mind you if the gorgeous James Valenti will be in the cast, I might just make a special trip! LOL!

And what a wonderful music teacher to introduce young minds to the joy of opera! Actually I think I shall fish out my Zeffirelli Traviata DVD and revel in it over the weekend.

Rain, rain, go away! It's non-stop here too.

Thanks for a terrific blog piece!

Take care

Allie and Pattie said...

How exciting! I always love your posts Pat, but they do make me miss home
xoxo Pattie

GrandmaK said...

How exciting for you to see this young man perform. I am reminded of the times I was privileged to attend opera performances with my dad's cousin, Pat. She would take me to the Central City Opera each summer in Colorado. And then as a graduation gift I saw Casa Fan Tutti performed by Theodor Uppman and Beverly Sills at the Santa Fe Opera. It was a thrill.

Lovely pictures and wonderful post. Your posts bring back fond memories. Cathy

Rosemary said...

I have never been to the Met Opera but now you are making me eager to check it out! Looks amazing! Thank you for the great post!

I am also having a giveaway this week on my blog so pleez come over and take a peek:


Ciao Chow Linda said...

Pat - Sounds like a great night. We have only one more opera left (Armida with Renee Fleming) but maybe I'll try to fit in this Traviata with Valenti, on your recommendation. I also need to linger over those gorgeous Zefferelli sets one more time.

Atticmag said...

The Met is one of our great cultural treasures and I so appreciate your deep love of it. Please stop by and see our butterfly wall art if you haven't already. Happy Easter. -- Jane F.

Vee said...

Wonderful! I am glad that Valenti has done so well. This is my favorite opera and I think that is is so neat that we share the same favorite. I've never seen it performed live, but when we first saw it in a large theater on campus, the sound of sniffling could be heard throughout the theater when it ended. Mine included. Then our music professor shared the background story about the first time that the opera was performed and we were left giggling. So then hysterics set in. Not a pretty picture, but a memorable one all the same.

Nola @ the Alamo said...

Isn't it amazing how small the world becomes when you blog? You meet people you probably never would otherwise!
You are sooooo lucky to live near enough to visit the Met regularly and sooooo lucky your hubby will take you!
Have a blessed Easter.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Wow----how lucky of this young man to have made it THIS FAR in his career already. I know his family is very proud of him. I love that opera --and would have enjoyed the performance SO much. So glad you got to go. I'm sure we'll hear James Valenti's name alot more in the next several years!!!


My name is PJ. said...

I. AM. SO. JEALOUS. Thank you for bringing us a piece of it!!

And, those chandeliers are beautiful!

RNSANE said...

I am always thrilled to see this beautiful opera house with its stellar chandeliers and so much beauty. How nice to be able to see young and brilliant talent, Pat. Thank you for sharing this lovely evening with us!!

steviewren said...

I enjoy reading your posts about the opera, since it is a topic I know hardly anything about. That being said Bravo for Mr Valenti and may he have a long and illustrious career doing something he loves.

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Like the previous commenter...I know little about the opera...but so enjoy your posts. It's always fun to see all the glamour and glitz at the opera house! And how neat that you could see James Valenti make his debut at the Met.

shopannies said...

what wondeful pictures it looks extrodinare and like such a privalage

xinex said...

What a fun evening! The chandelier set is awesome and the costumes are so pretty and colorful...Christine

Jeanne said...

Hi Pat, yes, it is good to be home again. I still have many blogs to visit but since I have been home I haven't had a minute. I still have NOT unpacked. sigh. Tomorrow is another day. Smile.

I love your post about the Opera Traviata and the review of James Valenti's debut. I would loved to have been there. I too love the opera. We have very little opportunity here in Franklin for cultural events.

I also love your post about the beautiful sculpture of the angel.., Beautiful and reading her history was lovely.

Blessing to you and your family for a Happy Easter holiday.

Hugs, Jeanne

Jeanne said...

Pat, I forgot to mention how beautiful the opera house is and how much I admire the chandeliers.

Hugs, Jeanne, again

Lily Hydrangea said...

Wow! That sounds amazing.
I feel like I am living vicariously through your night at the opera. Thanks for sharing this Pat.
: )

Gracie said...

I find it really amazing when you feel you have a connection with one performer in a way or another. It's the same for me with my collegue's son singing in the musical by R. Cocciante "Giulieta & Romeo"......

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful evening. I'm still glad you could see it in the old style costumes. He sounds like a good up and coming singer.

Love the lights too.

Tracy said...

Oooo...that Mr. James Valenti is a hottie! hehehe... Well, he is! ;o) But even more he has such a GREAT voice...WOW! Those chandeliers are incredible. If I was a chandelier I'd love to be one of those! ;o) Just love seeing the costumes and behind the scenes here a little... Love joining you on your trips to the opera, Pat--thank you! Wishing you & yours a beautiful & blessed Easter holiday weekend ((BIG HUGS))

Beverly said...

Pat, this is an incredible story. It is a very small world, isn't it?! How wonderful that you were able to attend.

I dream of being able to go to the Metropolitan Opera some day.

Sea Witch said...

Sounds like a wonderful evening was had. Don't you just love the blog connections we have with so many people in the world? Sea Witch

La Petite Gallery said...

That had to be a wonderful night out. That happend's to be one of my favorites,some others I do not like. Beautiful story.. The Opera house looks beautiful with those chandeliers. It made it better to be with your Daughter.
I've been to the Boston opers not the met. Lucky you..


La Petite Gallery said...

That had to be a wonderful night out. That happend's to be one of my favorites,some others I do not like. Beautiful story.. The Opera house looks beautiful with those chandeliers. It made it better to be with your Daughter.
I've been to the Boston opers not the met. Lucky you..


Proud Italian Cook said...

Great photos Pat, I love the chandeliers, so beautiful. Like I said before you live in such a wonderful place, how awesome to regulary go to the Met! Happy, Happy, Happy Easter Pat, to you and your family!

diane said...

How lucky you are to be able to visit the New York Opera. It is a dream a world away for us so we will enjoy it through your blog. The opera house is wonderful especially the chandeliers. The pic of you in front of the fountain is great. A nice story about your link with James Valenti.

Jay said...

Wow, what an amazing experience! And all the better for knowing someone in the cast! Looks like a beautiful place, too.

I believe I have some recordings with Leonard Slatkin's name on them. Not sure which now, but I don't have many operas, so it's likely Die Zauberflote or The Marriage of Figaro.

annie said...

Great pictures! Thank you for sharing them, I can't get enough of them.
The Met is a national treasure for sure.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I do love it when you take us to the opera!

Just started reading a new Linda Fairstein novel and she has a map of Manhattan in the front. I had to check your blog to see if you had any pictures of the places she's noted.

Trotter said...

Hi Pat! Back here to wish a happy Easter! Blogtrotter Two is now departing Miami by air; my Easter egg for you... ;). Have a great weekend!!

Sue said...

Another fascinating experience for you to share with us, Pat! How wonderful to be at the Met, too. The only operas I've attended have been at the beautiful outdoor opera house in Santa Fe, NM. Now those were truly great experiences, especially since the location was out in the high desert. Hope all is well with you. I'm trying to visit more these days since I've got a little more free time. Hugs, Sue