- HIGH NOTES: In the Ozarks.
EUREKA SPRINGS — When you think of opera, you probably don’t also think of summer camp, but the two seem to go together at Opera in the Ozarks, a month-long opera festival for young professional singers right outside of Eureka Springs. Although the setting is rustic, the singing is not — at a concert July 1, the ensemble put on a fine performance of one of Verdi’s most beloved operas, “La Traviata.”
The venue, Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony, was open-air, and the audience was casual. The set, admittedly, was a bit threadbare, with aluminum foil representing a mirror and only a few necessary props. With the start of the overture, however (a beautiful string quartet from the fourth act), the atmosphere changed from one of relaxation to one laced with anticipation.
“La Traviata” is the story of a Parisian courtesan, Violetta, who reluctantly falls in love with a nobleman, Alfredo Germont. The Germont family name is thus dishonored, and its patriarch, Giorgio Germont, confronts Violetta and commands her to leave his son to give him and his sister a chance at a respectable life. She obeys, but Alfredo, misunderstanding, confronts her at a party and denounces her. Later, Violetta is dying of consumption when Alfredo rushes to her side and the two are reconciled shortly before she dies.
The first act was a bit lackluster, as if the performers were warming up. Cynthia Leigh Karp, portraying Violetta, came into her own at the end of Act I with her solo aria “E Strano, E Strano,” showcasing her versatile voice all the way through the famous “Sempre Libera.”
Act II was by far the strongest act. Most of this was due to the heart-wrenching scene between Violetta and Giorgio Germont, played by Wayne Line. Karp’s acting during this scene brought this writer close to tears, and Line’s rich baritone voice was a pleasure to listen to.
After Alfredo (Josh Shaw) throws money at Violetta in Act III, the partygoers scornfully condemn his action. The articulation, the balance, and the sheer volume produced by the ensemble was simply remarkable. The final act never elicited the emotional strength it could have, perhaps due to the lack of chemistry between Shaw and Karp. Yet, on the whole, it was a pleasant performance by this group of young singers.
Opera lovers in Northwest Arkansas have no excuse to miss this festival, and it would also make a nice night out for anyone in the area with an interest in classical music. Visit the festival’s website, www.opera.org, to find upcoming performances and to buy tickets. Other operas playing at Inspiration Point through July 21 include “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” “Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicci,” and the family-style “Who’s Afraid of Opera?” The performances begin nightly at 8. Inspiration Point is about six miles from downtown Eureka Springs.