by David K. Rodgers
HARDWICK – “And now, for something completely different” in Hardwick, to quote from Monty Python. Friday evening at the American Legion, the recently-founded Civic Standard hosted a spaghetti dinner combined with a broadcast of the San Francisco Opera Company’s current production of Verdi’s tragic opera, “La Traviata.” Black tie and/or upscale apparel was suggested and the sizable audience that assembled seemed to enjoy the opportunity of dressing up for this unique occasion; we do not often see top hats, fur stoles and tuxedos around town.
The evening’s festivities were introduced by Rose Friedman who explained that the Civic Standard was initiated by Tara Reese, Erica Heilman and Friedman to build community in Hardwick by presenting a variety of regular events that will bring people together in shared experiences that are both fun and meaningful. She also alerted us to the fact that, thanks to her personal friendship with the opera’s director and the magic of the internet, we would be enjoying a special treat during the intermission.
Giuseppi Verdi wrote some of the most compelling dramatic opera in the whole repertoire, with characters we can identify with and scenes that engage the full range of our emotions. His skill in blending voices and his superb orchestration create many transcendental musical moments; his beautiful melodies stay with us long after a performance.
In this fine production the heroine, Violetta, was sung by Pretty Yende whose soprano voice was exquisite in phrasing and warm in color, while her acting was powerfully convincing, especially in the tragic final act. Up and coming tenor, Jonathan Tetelman was excellent as Alfredo, her lover, with a commanding presence on stage and complete assurance on every note. Alfredo’s father, the Count Germont, sung by bass Simone Piazzola, displayed great vocal skill but somewhat limited acting, making virtually no expressive use of his face or body, the production’s only small weakness. Another young singer of note was Adam Lau playing the doctor, a secondary but memorable role. The entire show was sumptuously and inventively staged by Shawna Lucey with musical direction by Eun Sun Kim, who ably conducted.
One of the highlights of the evening was a live Zoom interview with the director, between the first and second acts. Ms. Lucey was delightful to listen to. She shared stories about preparations for this production and was very candid and amusing in her answers to questions from the Hardwick audience, all of which was entirely refreshing and helped break the ice for those who might feel intimidated by classical music in general and have always assumed that they wouldn’t enjoy opera in particular.
From the delicious Italian meal to the final spectacular aria, the entire evening was a
triumph; we look forward to future events hosted by this group. The Civic Standard is planning
future attractions and would welcome any imaginative ideas. They can be contacted at their
physical location in the old Gazette building on Main Street, or through their website, thecivicstandard.org