Review: Excellent performances, great chemistry make Utah Opera production a ‘Traviata’ to remember
Review • Utah Opera production shines in intimate moments.
Published: January 20, 2014 09:09AM
Updated: January 20, 2014 09:10AM
Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Singers James Westman (Germont), Cody Austin (Alfredo) and Sara Gartland (Violetta), from left, perform a scene from Utah Opera's "La Traviata," Verdi's hit show about the courtesan with a heart of gold, her impetuous boyfriend and his meddling dad.

Utah Opera is welcoming music lovers back to Salt Lake City’s newly renovated Capitol Theatre in grand style with an excellent production of Giuseppe Verdi’s beloved “La Traviata.”

Though it features a pair of festive and sparkling party scenes — staged smartly by director José María Condemi and sung with flair by the Utah Opera Chorus, as prepared by new chorus master Caleb Harris — “Traviata” is among the most intimate of operas. Its power lies in the one-on-one scenes featuring the three central characters in various combinations. Utah Opera’s cast boasts three first-rate singers in these roles, but even more important is the potent chemistry between each pair. Every relationship onstage rings true.

Soprano Sara Gartland sings the title role. It’s her first time portraying Violetta, and she already has a firm grasp on the character. On opening night Saturday, Gartland sang with passion and brilliant coloratura. Her acting was nuanced and touching, and she held the audience at rapt attention with each of her arias.

Tenor Cody Austin is equally charismatic as the impetuous Alfredo. His expressive singing and generous acting, combined with the completely natural body language between him and Gartland, make the characters’ romance heartbreakingly believable.

But perhaps most impressive of all is baritone James Westman as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father. He’s a veteran of this role, and the psychological depth he brings to it elevates the production. The emotional journey he takes in the course of a single aria is remarkable to witness.

Among the supporting cast, baritone Shea Owens’ characterization of the sour Baron Douphol — underscoring the mercenary nature of his relationship with Violetta — makes her tender love affair with Alfredo all the more touching. And tenor Tyson Miller, as the eager matchmaker Gastone, brightens the mood with his ebullient charm.

Robert Tweten leads the Utah Symphony in a well-paced and expressive performance of Verdi’s magnificent score. Hair and makeup, costumes and lighting — designed by Yancey Quick, Susan Memmott Allred and Nicholas Cavallaro, respectively — are up to the company’s usual high standard.

As if that weren’t enough, the theater renovation brings a delightful bonus for shorter audience members: Seats have been ever-so-slightly repositioned and the stage has been raised 4 inches, resulting in noticeably improved sightlines.

Pretty woman

P Utah Opera presents Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.” The opera is sung in Italian, with supertitles in English.

Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

When • Reviewed Saturday continues Wednesday and Friday at 7:30.

In a nutshell • Carefree courtesan Violetta finds love with the impetuous Alfredo — until Alfredo’s father implores her to end the relationship because of the embarrassment it has brought to his family.

Tickets • $18 to $95 ($5 more on performance day) at or the Capitol Theatre box office

Running time • Just under 3 hours, including two intermissions

Learn more • Utah Opera principal coach Carol Anderson will give free lectures at the back of the house an hour before curtain; the company’s artistic director, Christopher McBeth, will lead a Q&A on the mezzanine after each performance. Additional background information is at