LA Opera's revival of Marta Domingo sumptuous production of La Traviata, set in Paris in the 1920s and choreographed as if were a musical film, was all about Adela Zaharia's brilliant performance in the title role and James Conlon's masterful shaping of the score. The ballets were great, glorious fun and the setting for the final act had a Wagnerian cast to it, with Zaharia ghostly pale on a couch that could have been a bier. Verdi's radiant music at the end was as much a sorrowful apotheosis of a weary spirit as an emotional tragedy.

Adela Zaharia (Violetta) © Ken Howard
Adela Zaharia (Violetta)
© Ken Howard

Zaharia first appeared angular and remote, but as she inhabited the role and the stage came alive with the two parties, the opera became almost entirely about her, to the extent that I wanted to watch her every movement and hear her every syllable. Her voice was a plastic instrument that enabled her to range wide: she hit her high C's not as a circus act but as an emotional punctuation.

In charge of a splendidly virtuosic orchestra whose woodwinds excelled, brass exulted and strings sounded silky smooth if a bit thin, Conlon paced the opera so wisely that the great arias and sparkling moments were jewels in a crown that kept the story moving inexorably. It was one of those performances where you want Violetta to die. At the end everything was right.

Adela Zaharia (Violetta) and Rame Lahaj (Alfredo) © Craig T Mathew
Adela Zaharia (Violetta) and Rame Lahaj (Alfredo)
© Craig T Mathew

The men were another story. Making his LA Opera debut, Ramë Lahaj occasionally often sang quite beautifully, with ringing high tones that filled the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, but his acting was wooden and neither he nor Zaharia, both of whom seemed remarkably averse to looking at each other in the eye, made much of an effort at chemistry that was not purely musical. Also making his company debut, Vitaliy Bilyy's Germont was warm and sympathetic but faded into the background too readily.

Adela Zaharia (Violetta) and Vitaliy Bilyy (Giorgio Germont) © Craig T Mathew
Adela Zaharia (Violetta) and Vitaliy Bilyy (Giorgio Germont)
© Craig T Mathew

The secondary roles were handled without a hitch and the LA Opera Chorus was magnificent as always. Choreographer Kitty McNamee provided a series of cinematic ballets that bordered on the edge between cinema and floor shows. She painted her dancers gold and gave them routines for the first party that could have been influenced by the Egyptomania unleashed by the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922. The second ballet was seductive in a more aggressively sinuous way as Louis J. Williams, Jr. joined the corps of women for an exuberantly physical cage dance.

Dancer Louis A. Williams Jr and cast in *La Traviata^ © Craig T Mathews
Dancer Louis A. Williams Jr and cast in *La Traviata^
© Craig T Mathews

The movement was more than just dancing during the ballets. Domingo had her actors constantly moving fluidly and naturally around the stage so that there was never a dull visual moment. And her brilliant sets and costumes were worth the price of admission alone. The opening party took place in a smashing art deco nightclub with a jazz band on a balcony, with a a mouthwatering vintage automobile delivering Violetta. The scene in the garden had a wonderful autumn cast with leaves fluttering down like Tinker Bell's pixie dust.

*****