Opera San Antonio opens its season at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts this Thursday and Saturday night with “La Traviata,” a doomed romance by Giuseppe Verdi that’s nevertheless full of life. It’s one of the most popular works in the operatic repertoire.
Baritone Weston Hurt, from Texas, plays the role of Giorgio Germont, father to Alfredo, played by San Antonio native David Portillo. In the story, Germont is the one who tries to keep Alfredo and his love, Violetta, apart.
“Many people see him as the bad guy,” Hurt says.
“Well, if you look at it the entirety of the role, he's not a bad guy at all. He just he's trying to do what's right for his family.”
At the time “La Traviata” was staged, a young man getting into a relationship with a courtesan like Violetta would have caused a stir.
“Back in those days... you know, there's a very significant difference between a courtesan and a prostitute. Very, very different. Violetta was known for her readings of poetry and for how graceful and elegant she was as a woman, threw all the parties. She was the person to hang out with, she was the party to be at. She's the one. Right. So she and Alfredo my son meet and begin this relationship. And I think for her, it's probably the first time that she's really, truly, fallen in love with someone. Certainly for Alfredo, he is smitten with her. When my character, Giorgio Germont, the father, finds out about this, he sees it from I think a political view, in that he has two children. He has Alfredo but he also has a daughter. His reason for visiting [Violetta] to ask her to leave him is essentially to protect the future of their family, because heaven forbid if the family that his daughter were to marry were to ever find out that you have a son who was in a relationship with a courtesan? And so I think that is what initiates this idea. In the end, he does truly, eventually see her as another daughter, and realizes how wrong he was to ask them to separate. But it's of course, too late.”
“La Traviata” is full of Verdi’s vibrant melodies, including the famous "Brindisi" from Act One.
“I wish I could remember the exact quote,” Hurt says, “but it was something along the lines of, it's an art form which drags fiercely with it all other art forms, maintaining the human voice as the epicenter of this tornado of passion.”
There are some stormy moments in “La Traviata,” but what you come away remembering is the great story, and the young love of its two leads, Violetta and Alfredo. Hurt says it’s a perfect opera for first-timers, not only for the beautiful music and exquisite staging, but for the experience of seeing it in the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
“It truly is a state of the art, world-class theater,” Hurt enthuses. “Everything from backstage to being onstage. I had an opportunity at the [Tobin Center] open house, to sing Germont’s big aria from Act Two, ‘Di Provenza,’ on stage as part of Opera San Antonio’s presence there at the Open House. And it's an incredibly acoustic hall. I'm not sure who designed it, but whoever did it, they were right!”
“La Traviata” plays this Thursday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. You can find more details about the production and tickets online at OperaSA.org or at the Tobin Center's website.
Below, hear an extended interview with Weston Hurt, where he talks more about “La Traviata,” and training for the stage, including—fight scenes!