Palm Beach Opera Celebrates New Season

Despite the typical tribulations that have beset
opera companies since the art form began, General Director Daniel Biaggi
preceded the performance with his customary Swiss aplomb and elegance, thanking
major sponsors and expressing both pride in the past and optimism for the

The premiere’s Violetta, Joyce El Khoury, faced special challenges. Not
only was the stage director Renata Scotto famous for the role, but in the
audience was the legendary Virginia Zeani, who sang it 600 times, plus Finnish
soprano Rikka Hakala, whose resume lists a mere 200 performances. Add to that
Palm Beach resident Frayda Lindemann, sponsor of the Metropolitan Opera’s
Young Artists program of which 27-year-old El Khoury is a graduate, and it was
understandable that her first act showed signs of nerves.

PBO_Traviata_02.gifJoyce El-Khoury as Violetta and Georgy Vasiliev Alfredo Germont

However, as the evening progressed, she began to float pianissimo
high notes with a precision of attack and security that was dazzling. By the
time the duet with Germont Pere rolled around, the way in which she used her
technique for emotional expression approached Albanese standards. The audience
loved her.

Many in that audience were distressed by the departure of the charismatic
PBO Music Director Bruno Aprea. The first in a series of replacement conductors
was Case Scaglione, who turned in a workmanlike reading. Both the beautiful
production, from Utah, and Mme. Scotto’s staging were to Palm Beach’s taste
for tradition and extravagance, although one could wish she had invented some
variety of movement for Georgy Vasiliev’s Alfredo, who appeared to support
his stalwart, pleasing tenor by keeping his hands in his pockets.

Papa Germont is always a favorite with the public, and Michael Chioldi
deserved his ovation with a warm, full baritone and sympathetic presence. The
comprimarios are always good, most of them coming from the PBO Young
Artists program. Shirin Eskandani was noteworthy as a flirtatious Flora, while
7-foot-plus tall Peter Tomaszewski certainly stood out as Doctor Grenvil. The
chorus, directed by Greg Ritchey, provided fine back-up, and even danced

Ariane Csonka

image_description=Joyce El-Khoury as Violetta and Georgy Vasiliev Alfredo Germont [Photo by Palm Beach Opera]
product_title=Palm Beach Opera Celebrates 50 Years
product_by=A review by Ariane Csonka
product_id=Above: Joyce El-Khoury as Violetta and Georgy Vasiliev Alfredo Germont

Photos by Palm Beach Opera