La Traviata
By Giuseppe Verdi
Wednesday, July 26 and Friday, July 28, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Merrill Auditorium, Portland

Opera Maine, formerly PORTopera, presents one of the most loved operas of all time for its 23rd mainstage production. Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn brings new life to this heartbreaking tale conducted by Maestro  Stephen Lord with the Opera Maine orchestra and chorus. The principal cast features soprano Maria Natale as Violetta, tenor Mackenzie Whitney as Alfredo, and baritone Joo Won Kang as Germont, all making their Opera Maine debuts

Stephen Lord – Conductor

Dona D. Vaughn – Artistic Director

La traviata is the most often-performed opera in history, with unforgettable music and an emotionally gripping story with all the elements of a great tragic romance. The heroine, Violetta, is based on a real person who lived in the mid-1800s, Marie Duplessis, who was born a simple peasant and became a renowned Parisian courtesan. One of her lovers was the great French novelist Alexandre Dumas, who wrote the novel “La Dame aux camellias” based on their affair. This novel inspired Verdi and his librettist to write an opera about a famous courtesan, Violetta, who abandons her life of excitement and luxury for a quiet existence with her respectable lover, Alfredo. Unfortunately for the lovers, Alfredo’s father Germont refuses to bless the union and persuades Violetta to abandon the relationship to save his family from disgrace. She is ultimately reunited with her beloved Alfredo but, alas, too late, as — in true operatic fashion — Violetta meets a tragic end.

The role of Violetta will be played by soprano Maria Natale, who delighted audiences in concert with Opera Maine in April 2016. Ms. Natale came to the attention of Artistic Director Dona Vaughn during her professional studies at the Manhattan School of Music, where she received outstanding notices performing Lady Macbeth in Ernest Bloch’s only opera Macbeth. A second-place winner in the Violetta DuPont Vocal Competition and a finalist in the Gerda Lissner Competition, she made her professional debut with Sarasota Opera as Liù in Turandot in 2013, gaining accolades from the Sarasota Tribune for her “strong and lovely lyric soprano voice,” “dramatic muscle” and “gossamer lines.” These performances will mark Ms. Natale’s Opera Maine mainstage production debut.

Maria Natale

Tenor Mackenzie Whitney, also making his Opera Maine debut, will perform the role of Alfredo. Mr. Whitney made his company debut with Des Moines Metro Opera in 2015 as Giovanni in Rappaccini’s Daughter, and Opera Today praised his “pliable, impassioned tenor.” The recipient of an Artist Diploma from the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in 2016, Mr. Whitney is rapidly gaining recognition nationwide for his expressive lyric tenor voice. He has recently performed with Utah Opera, Hawaii Opera Theatre, and participated in young artist programs at Opera New Jersey, Central City Opera, and Oberlin in Italy. In the spring of 2018 he will make a company debut with Annapolis Opera, and will also return to Madison Opera, having performed Rodolfo (La Bohème) there in 2015 to great acclaim.

Mackenzie Whitney

Rounding out the principals making their Opera Maine debuts is baritone Joo Won Kang as Germont. Recent career highlights include his debut at the Wexford Festival, Ireland where he sang the leading role of Corrado in Donizetti’s Maria de Rudenz with great success, leading Opera News to declare him “the standout voice of this year’s festival,” and performing the role of Chou-Enlai in John Adam’s Nixon in China with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by the composer. A native of South Korea, Mr. Kang has been a top prize winner in many important vocal competitions including First Prize Winner in the Gerda Lissner International Competition, Opera Index Vocal Competition, Giulio Gari International Competition, Palm Beach International Competition, Fort Worth Opera’s MacCammon Vocal Competition and the Ades Vocal Competition at the Manhattan School of Music as well as Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Joo Won Kang

The cast also includes:
Erma Mellinger as Flora; Eliza Bonet (2015 Opera Maine Studio Artist) as Annina; Victor Starsky as Gaston; Matthew Lau as Dottore Grenvil.

Two of Opera Maine’s Studio Artists will also have roles in the mainstage production: Hidenori Inoue as Baron Douphol and Andrew Pardini as Marchese d’Obigny. The 2017 Studio Artists also include Yunlei Xie, Jin-Xiang Yu, Andrew Paulson, and Anna Bridgman, who act as understudies and members of the ensemble.

La traviata is the 24th Opera Maine production to be designed and directed by Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn, and the eighth to be led by Stephen Lord, recently named Principal Conductor for the company. Ms. Vaughn describes their partnership as a “joyful collaboration,” and continued, “We have maybe 200 submissions for casting, and hours and hours of preparation. It’s always so thrilling to see where music and dramatic action combine.”

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