Alok Kumar (as Alfredo), left, and Inna Dukach (as Violetta)
By DAVID N. DUNKLE
Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata" drenches you in music, providing a high dive into a pool of arias, duets, choral passages and orchestral flourishes.
It's Verdi's most accessible opera, containing some of his most admired music. While the tragic plot is fairly routine - a variation on boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl dies - the music is often soaring.
Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra's concert version of the 19th century work took wing Saturday night at The Forum, as Maestro Stuart Malina and the orchestra accompanied a cascade of fine voices. Malina even sang a small part from his podium just before intermission.
The opera, which runs more than two hours with one intermission, will be repeated at 3 p.m. today in The Forum.
The star of the show is soprano Inna Dukach, who convincingly inhabits the role of Parisian courtesan Violetta Valery, even in this concert version of Verdi's opera. She reeled in all of the notes, seemingly without effort, carrying nearly the entire second half of the first act in moving fashion.
Dukach has performed with HSO before, and her return to Harrisburg in the role of Violetta is most welcome. Malina and the orchestra provided fine accompaniment for her and the other singers - after launching the production with a tasty rendition of Verdi's overture.
The role of Alfredo, who is Violetta's lover, is performed by tenor Alok Kumar. Kumar and Dukach meld their voices to great effect on several duets, although they demonstrate little in the way of on-stage chemistry.
Admittedly, that would be more of an issue in a costume production than in a stand-and-sing concert edition such as this.
Alas, while a full opera production at The Forum would be a sumptuous treat, it is logistically almost impossible, as the auditorium lacks an orchestra pit. The cost for sets and costumes is also prohibitive.
So for the foreseeable future, expect HSO to stick with concert versions of popular operas like "La Traviata," which last year was the most performed opera in the world.
And that's OK, as long as Malina continues to assemble such a fine vocal ensemble to go along with the estimable quality of the orchestra.
In addition to Dukach and Kumar, the "La Traviata" roster includes Grant Youngblood as Alfredo's father, Giorgio, who pairs wonderfully with Dukach in an extended duet at the beginning of the second act. Other singers include Harrisburg's Christyan Seay, Damian Savorino and Krista River in the role of Flora.
Also on hand is the able Susquehanna Chorale, the Messiah College-based chorus that is a frequent HSO collaborator. While the Chorale's presence makes for a crowded stage, it provides needed vocal depth at key points.
HSO's production is sung in the original Italian from Francesco Maria Piave's libretto, but following the rather ho-hum plot is not difficult thanks to an English translation that is projected in rather large letters on a screen at the back of the stage.
While it is nice to know what's going on, there also is something to be said for simply closing your eyes and letting Verdi's musical magic wash over you, like a rinse cycle for the soul.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "La Traviata," Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra Masterworks concerts
WHERE: The Forum, Fifth and Walnut streets, Harrisburg