In her role as the tragic Violetta Valery, in Atlanta Opera’s production of Verdi’s “La Traviata,” Mary Dunleavy personifies all the emotion and nuance that make opera timeless. Anyone who has had a rough patch in his love life, a dramatic or demanding in-law or a jealous partner will feel
The opera runs through March 10 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Although this is Dunleavy’s Atlanta Opera debut, she has portrayed Violetta more than 60 times. With that experience, one could call it a signature role, so the singing is expected to be brilliant. It is. Dunleavy sings with such ease, as if Verdi’s composition is right in the sweet spot of her register. She displays all of the intoxication and zippy joy of finding of love, to that can’t-get-off-the-carved camel-back-settee emptiness, with spot on intonation and inflection.
Her notes are effervescent in the first act in “Un di felice, eterea.” But of course, Violetta is dying of tuberculosis, and as the illness progresses, so does Violetta’s character. You’ll want sulk with her through her duet of sacrifice. And when the end is near, Dunleavy’s rendering of the aria “Addio, del passato bei sogni ridenti” is heart wrenching, she could have dissolved into a pool of tears. “It’s nearly over,” read the supertitles.
Her co-star Boris Rudak portrays Alfredo Germont, a nobleman who confesses his love for Violetta, with whom she eventually runs away. Rudak offers a lovely, but wispy tenor that often faded around 15th row. His money shot, “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” the drinking song toast that’s supposed to get a Paris party started, was underwhelming until Dunleavy and the Atlanta Opera Chorus chimed in with the enormously famous melody.
Rudak seemed tentative at moments, and was outshone by the baritone emanating from Weston Hurt as Alfredo’s father Giorgio, who demands that Violetta nix her relationship with Alfredo so that the Germont family may avoid a bit of gossip. With his sturdy presence, Hurt brings tenderness and tension, especially in his duets with Dunleavy and Rudak.
The staging of La Traviata, which is directed by David Gatley, helped the 19th-century costuming earn oohs and aahs. The Parisian sets by Claude Girard and Bernard Uzan were fittingly lush, filled with velvety curtains, silky upholstery and chandeliers, while the Provence country house scene in Act II was idyllic, with just enough concentration of color to look as as if it was inspired by a Seurat painting.
7:30 March 5.; 8 p.m March 8; 3 p.m. March 10. $43-123. Cobb Energy Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway.