Rife with courtesans, class conflict and a case of consumption, Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata is a hum-along opera that never skimps on the drama.
The Augusta Opera will present La Traviata Friday and Saturday at Augusta State University's Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre.
The story of a doomed courtesan, her lover and his disapproving father was inspired by the true story of Marie Duplessis, a courtesan who died at the age of 23, 12 years before the opera was written.
More than merely musical performance, it was written as a testament to false morality and true love, bridging the gap between bel canto musical beauty and the emotional resonance of modern opera. Henry Akina, the stage director of the Augusta Opera production, said maintaining that drama is important to making La Traviata work.
"What we aspire to is a really honest telling of this story, I would say," he said. "It's interesting, because it was a piece that was very topical."
Like many of Verdi's most popular works, La Traviata is filled with catchy melodies that audiences instantly recognize, even if they are unfamiliar with the source material.
"I think that's one of the things that makes this opera so successful," said Robin Andrew Stamper, the conductor.
"The old adage of walking out of the theater humming tunes - well, it's something you can't help with this piece."
Vocally challenging, the central role of Violetta requires a great deal of technical skill. And Janinah Burnett, who will perform the role, said the dramatic element is just as difficult as the singing.
"The challenges, aside from the vocal demands, involve the emotional spectrum she (Violetta) has to go through," she said.
"It isn't just happy and sad. The hardest thing has been staying true to those emotions, and the voice, the music, are really just tools used to communicate that."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: La Traviata, presented by the Augusta Opera
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre, Augusta State University, 2500 Walton Way
COST: $15-$45; Augusta State students, faculty and staff admitted free with ID
Call: (706) 826-4710