"La Traviata" is a tough old bird. You can take the opera apart and put it together in 100 different ways and, no matter what, Verdi survives little more than lightly bruised.
In the Wadsworth Theater on Saturday night, the Marina-Westchester Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frank Fetta contrived what they called a "concert dramatization" of the opera. The orchestra was squeezed into the back part of this small stage, the chorus was perched on high risers at the left, and the principals carried on in the shallow forestage in front of the orchestra.
The only prop was a high bar stool, which served for everything from a roosting place for the tenor's "De' miei bollenti spiriti" to Violetta's deathbed.
Some of it was pretty silly, but once you got used to all the running around, certain things worked surprisingly well. It was not consistently expert or professional, but somehow the major points were clearly communicated.
The same qualification applies to the musical elements of the production. They would not have passed muster in more elegant surroundings, but in the prevailing situation they often managed to be genuinely affecting.
The Violetta, Demetra Mustafa, clearly was not a novice; she understood a number of important things about the music, but the vocalizing was decidedly uneven. In the first act it tended to be edgy and colorless; by the time the third act finale and the final "Addio del passato" arrived, the soprano was singing with agreeable warmth and feeling.
Farid Dardashti sang a frequently underpowered Alfredo, yet now and then a top note would ring commandingly and the light tone would suddenly become melting.
The really professional singing was achieved by Hagop Topouzian, a Germont with a baritone of ample power and occasionally moving eloquence.
The minor roles were assigned to Adrienne Leonetti, Judith Vaccaro, Jeffrey Gerstein, David Myrvold, Christopher Schumann and Wayne Shepherd.
The orchestra was now weak and now valiant. Fetta's conducting accorded with tradition and generated solid authority. But it would be easier to watch if the conductor could manage not to look like a marionette suspended on strings.