Vocalist - Soprano
Acclaim
Tulsa Opera excels with ''La Traviata'' production
The 10th time, it would seem, is the charm when it comes to "La Traviata."

Tulsa Opera has presented Verdi's grand and tragic romance more often than any other opera in its repertoire, and some of the productions I've witnessed over the years have been quite good.

But the version that opened Saturday at the Tulsa PAC to begin the company's 2010-11 season is not only the best "La Traviata" I've seen Tulsa Opera do, it's also one of best shows this company has done, period.

Even performances that I think to be very good have some kind of flaw - that is the nature of live theater and human beings, after all. In the case of an opera production, with so many people having to do so many different things that require they push themselves to their limits, there are that many more things that can go wrong.

Yet Saturday night's performance of "La Traviata" was one of those in which every element came together perfectly, to the point that it was almost possible to forget one was watching a performance and was, instead, truly experiencing a work of art.

And speaking of perfection, it was embodied in the performance of soprano Kelly Kaduce, making her Tulsa Opera debut as Violetta. People, you have got to hear this lady sing.

Kaduce's voice is full and rich, unusually powerful but always maintaining a caramel-like sweetness - her high notes were ringingly clear, without so much as a hint of shrillness or effort. Even better, she can use all that fullness, all the power, all that sweetness in the most expressive ways.

Simply put, this was the best acted Violetta I've seen on a Tulsa Opera stage. With some performers, especially in a role as vocally and dramatically extreme as this one, one gets the sense that they believe if they get the singing right, the character will naturally emerge.

Kaduce doesn't do that, however. You can tell that the dramatic element of the role is, to her, just as important as the vocal element, so that she vividly portrays every step of her character's emotional journey. Combine this attitude with that voice, and the results are extraordinary.

Her shift between the tender introspection of "Ah, fors'e lui che l'anima solinga ne' tumulti," to the declaration of hedonistic freedom, "Siempre libera" (playfully kicking off her high heels was a nice touch) in the first act; her confrontation with Peter Lindskoog as Germont in act two; the anguish of her lover's insult in act three; and her death scene in act four - all were portrayed with utter conviction.

Tenor Joshua Kohl, also making his Tulsa Opera debut as Alfredo, has a voice that is strong and still light, which gives his character a bright, boyish quality in the aria "Un di felice," and the rousing "Libiamo, libiamo," and makes his scandalous treatment of his lover in act three and his subsequent remorse more effective.

Lindskoog, who is one of Tulsa Opera's more frequent guest artists, was very good as Germont: implacable in his second act confrontation with Violetta, magisterial in his dressing-down of his son's heartlessness in act three, heartbreaking in his remorse at causing so much suffering in act four.

Artistic director Kostis Protopapas maintained a perfect balance among the forces at his command - the main characters, the subtle yet effective use of the well-prepared Tulsa Opera Chorus, and the excellent performance of Verdi's score by the Tulsa Opera Orchestra.

Stage director Johnathon Pape guided the action with simplicity and clarity, even in the large party scenes, where the ancillary business of the chorus was distinct and individual, but never distracted from the main focus of the scene.

The sumptous sets, on loan from Virginia Opera, and the luxurious costumes by A.T. Jones evoked all the color and glamour of Belle Epoque France, and were tastefully illuminated by Helena Kuukka's lighting design. Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong created the dances for the third act party scene, which were performed by dancers from Tulsa Ballet II.

James D. Watts Jr., Tulsa World
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