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Review: Canadian Opera Company’s “La Traviata” Crafts Important Story With Dazzling New Production

By: Curtis Sindrey –

A scene from the Canadian Opera Company’s production of La Traviata, 2022. Conductor Johannes Debus, director Arin Arbus, set designer Riccardo Hernandez, costume designer Cait O’Connor, and lighting designer Marcus Doshi. (Photo: Michael Cooper)

Canadian Opera Company’s new production “La Traviata” is a captivating, yet heartbreaking story about doomed true love and the ugliness of society.

The story follows Violetta Valéry, a Parisian courtesan and charismatic party host, as she enjoys a bougie lifestyle throwing countless extravagant parties in the fanciest of rooms (think elaborate chandeliers, fine wallpaper, and your parents’ best china) with the upper crust of Parisian society. However, as she comes to terms with her impending death and dwindling finances, she realizes that her relationships with the varied assortment of aristocrats and high class people she wines and dines with are hollow and that she has been left with no family or friends to speak of.

Played by Egyptian-born soprano Amina Edris, Valéry is a ball of fire as she struggles to maintain both her physical and mental health in a society that can often jeopardize both. You feel her struggle in your bones because we’ve all been her, especially in the last 2 years. Do you sacrifice your happiness and your health to belong to a social group that wouldn’t blink if you died, or do you move in a different direction and craft your own path to fulfilment and happiness?

Enter the suave and handsome Alfredo as he woos Valéry and gives her a chance at true happiness. Played by acclaimed American tenor Matthew Polenzani, he makes a strong COC debut as Valéry’s love interest as he provided a captivatingly nuanced performance that led you through a whirlwind of emotions of both love and tragedy.

Their story, and their short, albeit passionate love affair, feels like a punk rock romance. They’re rebelling against all of the ideals that everyone else attached themselves to back in 1850s Paris. The emphasis on status, appearance, and reputation, and a strict morality code crafted a fire underneath Alfredo and Valéry as they attempted to navigate their roles in society and how their romance fits (or doesn’t fit) in a rigid, hierarchical society.

In the words of director Arin Arbus, “the period is just the surface. The immediacy of the music, the characters, their situations
and passions remain vital and relevant. How different is Violetta’s world from our own?”

Being the first in-person opera performances at the COC’s Four Seasons Centre since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, “La Traviata” serves as a very strong start to what is sure to be one of the COC’s most memorable seasons.

“La Traviata” runs until May 20, 2022, and tickets are available here.

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