Jose Maria Condemi works in a very organic way with his singers. He allows them plenty of room to express who they are, and he respects the natural chemistry they each bring to the stage, while giving his own depth to the interpretation.
The staging rehearsals began at a rapid pace, and the story of La Traviata naturally unfolded before our eyes. Condemi did a meticulous job of casting singers who are wonderful actors and truly care about making beautiful music. This cast is also remarkably tall, and with that comes an incredible mixture of large, warm voices that I have seldom experienced within just one opera. Our production is full of powerhouses like Rebecca Davis, Ryan MacPherson, and Malcolm MacKenzie. They take us on a beautiful journey through some of Verdi’s most well known arias, while Alissa Anderson’s robust mezzo-soprano makes us wish that her character, Flora, had one of her own. Michael Krzankowski’s Baron is a full baritone, and Gabriel Vamvulescu’s once-in-a-lifetime bass as the Doctor is the rich icing on this musical cake.
Any account of my experience with Opera Santa Barbara would be incomplete without mentioning the exceptional maestro, Valéry Ryvkin. His infectious smile and succinct morsels of infinite wisdom make even long rehearsals a joy. The audience may only see the back of his head and his baton, but they will have no difficulty in hearing Maestro Ryvkin communicate the deep human emotion in every single note, as well as in the silent moments between.
For me, being part of Opera Santa Barbara has been great. The support the organization offers to performers is astounding. This company has achieved a level of respect among its sister houses that has allowed it to bring in some of the most talented singers in the nation. Whether from the audience or from the wings, it is a joy to witness this production of La Traviata from beginning to end.