In the Bronx Opera Company’s staging, Ms. Moore’s character forlornly kneels at
the front of the stage while the chorus of partygoers apparently takes her side, singing, “Depart at once and leave this house” to hotheaded Alfredo. (Since its inception,
the company has sung only in English in order to make their performances as accessible as possible.)
During the last chord the chorus sings — a tense diminished seventh — father Germont administers the corporal punishment.
“The slap happens right here,” said Mr. Oakden. “Then I break the silence with, ‘No man of honor insults a woman.’ It turns into this short, really just super, super tense scene.”
A pregnant pause comes right after the slap and before Giorgio Germont launches into a more melodious admonition — one of many elements that the singers said is evidence of Verdi’s mastery of his chosen genre.
“The spaces, the beats — they’re so specifically written in by Verdi, they’re so powerful,” Mr. Oakden remarked.
Conductor Michael Spierman said that by the time of the pause before the father’s aria begins, the music and the action have attained a tension begging for release.
“The diminished seventh chord says
to the listener, pay attention to what’s coming, because it’s important,” Mr. Spierman said. “Then when the father says what he
has to say, the diminished seventh has done its purpose.”
All slapping aside, the singers said they feel the opera is still relevant today, more 153 years after its premier in Venice.
Mr. Guzman, Ms. Moore and Mr. Oakden agreed that a relationship between a member of the middle class like Alfredo Guzmant and a prostitute like Violetta Valéry would still scandalize their friends and family — at least the former’s relations — today.
“The story is so universal, if you put this story in 2014, it works,” said Mr. Guzman.
Ms. Moore said in the world of “La Traviata,” the male characters predominate.
“The men really have all the power, and I think deliberately so in the way this opera is written and conceived,” the soprano said. “That’s one of the main points we want to make. [Violetta] is really a victim of fate, of this society that won’t let her repent from her past actions.”