Oh La… La Traviata: Lyric Opera of Kansas City offers thick drama and flamboyence


La Traviata. // Photo by Don Ipok for LOKC

Rampant tuberculosis, oppressive French bourgeoisie opulence, and a stage full of diaphragms that rival a team of Olympic swimmers—a tale as old as time. 

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s latest production, La Traviata, is a classic opera thick with drama, heartbreak, and flamboyance (think Real Housewives of French Bourgeoisie meets Pretty Woman). From costume and styling to set and props, the attention to detail in this performance was astounding and integral to understanding the essence of the show unless you’re fluent in Italian (thankfully, they did provide subtitles).

Though “Traviata” means “fallen woman,” the lead woman, Violetta (played by powerhouse Amanda Woodbury), is a fabulous and sexually empowered French courtesan using the fragility of the cishet male condition to her advantage. Eventually, she catches the eye of young Alfredo (played by a passionate Daniel Montenegro), who, after much debate, whisks her away to the French countryside for a blissful married life.

After years of provincial peace, Alfredo’s boomer dad, Giorgio (played by operatic titan Weston Hurt), uses Violetta’s sexually empowered past as shameful leverage to convince her to leave the marriage, resulting in an extra painful jolt to the still-lovesick Alfredo when Violetta dies prematurely of tuberculosis at the close of the story. We were practically writhing in contagious dramatic distress by the end of the show. The final scene almost killed us. 

Flora And Friends

La Traviata. // Photo by Don Ipok for LOKC

The set was an impressive application of spatial intelligence, transforming via what we guess were several metric tons of props suspended from a complex system of wires and pulleys in the rafters and immense three-sided columns that spun in rhythmic harmony at the back of the stage (bravo to the grips in charge of those transitions).

We were effortlessly swept from eerie 19th-century tuberculosis infirmary (complete with corpses) to cringe hoity-toity Parisian parties, to the windswept French countryside and back again, as if by magic carpet. The costumes were equally as breathtaking as the entire cast was clad in approximately five miles of billowing, pillowed, and laced French silk, as well as corsets and petticoats—each ensemble perfectly suited to its wearer and their motives. Be still our couture-thirsty hearts.

This performance also included the apparently mandatory appearance of a real dog. The real show-stopper, however, was the chartreuse-clad matador in the third act. Tristian Griffin of TG Dance Company stole the stage with a choreographed and playful “pretend” ass-kicking of the entire court of intolerable cannibalistic French imperialists, and we loved every perfectly executed karmic second of it. 

Each scene held its own rollercoaster. Leaning into this extreme emotion as a spectator was a practice in and of itself. Despite a last-minute cast change, Michael Colman (former LOKC Apprentice) flew in during the wee morning hours of performance day and melded seamlessly into the show. The orchestra and the cast hit every note with aplomb. 

You could say La Traviata was… trés magnifique. 

Categories: Culture