TO MARCH 29

La Traviata sits midway in Verdi’s career between his more lyrical, bel canto-influenced early work and his later style, with its weightier vocal lines and increasingly complex orchestrations. Washington Opera’s new production points firmly to the past, both Verdi’s and ours, by fielding a cast of light, lyric voices and surrounding them with beautiful sets that bring to mind the richly appointed productions of 30 or 40 years ago. Even Karl Sollak’s conducting (especially some exquisite legato playing he draws from the strings in the two preludes) recalls the deliberate pace and affectionate phrasing of the old Italian maestros. Marta (Mrs. Placido) Domingo’s staging also suggests the old days—unhappily, in the nonstop, seemingly aimless crisscrossing of the stage the cast is asked to do and, more satisfyingly, in the way her formal stage pictures keep directing our eyes to Violetta. Ainhoa Arteta’s Violetta is worth the attention. Hollywood-beautiful in a way you rarely see on an opera stage, she’s a subdued but convincing actress throughout, meltingly so in her Act 1 flirtation with Alfredo. Greg Fedderly, also boasting photogenic looks, makes Alfredo too much of a vacuous milquetoast, taking command only in the gambling scene. Christopher Robertson’s Germont comes to life even later in the game, fairly blank until his heartbreak at Violetta’s deathbed. There are similar pluses and minuses on the vocal end of things, with Robertson’s baritone the most robust voice and Fedderly’s tenor pleasingly callow, except when pushed for volume. And through intelligent phrasing and masterful control, Arteta is able to take an unpromisingly small, slightly hard soubrette voice and create with it an eloquent and finished portrait of Verdi’s heroine. At 8 p.m. March 21, 24, 26, 27, & 29 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. $55-175. (202) 467-4600. (Joe Banno)

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