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Met Opera Presents Season’s First ‘Traviata’

February 14, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ Veronica Villarroel not only has the initials for Violetta Valery, heroine of Verdi’s ``La Traviata,″ but she also has the voice to sing the role.

Villarroel sang Violetta, with all her nuances, personality and pathos, Monday night in the Metropolitan Opera’s first presentation of the season of ``La Traviata.″

In the first act, in which Violetta does her coloratura singing, Villarroel’s voice was light, fresh, flexible and effortlessly exuberant. Her coloratura notes were warm and round. She had plenty of power but managed to impress with her delicacy.

As the opera progressed, she emphasized floating the lyric line and she changed the colors in her voice to fit the drama. In Act 2, when she’s in love with Alfredo, she sang passionately. When she was persuaded by his father to give him up, she sang with moving resignation. In Act 3, she was appropriately wan.

Frank Lopardo, who sang Alfredo, has one of the fullest-bodied tenor voices outside Wagner operas. He sounds like a baritone with an extended top range. The trouble with this, is that he sounded too mature to be a young man made volatile by love.

Lopardo’s full sound was most appropriate at the moment he railed at Violetta and angrily threw money in her lap. Otherwise, the silver timbre of youth was missing.

Baritone Roberto Frontali sang Alfredo’s father, the Elder Germont, with vocal dignity and reserve. He avoided the trap, which Verdi’s appealing music provides, of sounding too sympathetic to Violetta when he urges her to leave his son. The baritone has one of the opera’s most beautiful arias, ``Di Provenza,″ which he sings to his son. Frontali made the most of it, singing dispassionately but with strength.

The lavish Franco Zeffirelli production, new in 1989, makes sure the audience frequently notices the Met’s turntable stage. This was especially effective during the lavish party scene of Act 2: A room with a grand staircase becomes a small room, with back walls and gambling table whirling in.

Conductor John Fiore carefully shaped the music. He gave Lopardo a slow tempo so he could impress with his Act 1 love declaration, but he made Violetta’s music especially poignant.

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