Soprano finds role of Violetta 'a challenge' as Opera Southwest performs 'La Traviata' - Albuquerque Journal

Soprano finds role of Violetta ‘a challenge’ as Opera Southwest performs ‘La Traviata’

Kirk Dougherty and Sarah Asmar star in “La Traviata.”

Singing makes Sarah Asmar bubble.

The Connecticut-based soprano will sing the role of the doomed Violetta in “La Traviata” at Opera Southwest on Oct. 24, 27, 29 and 31.

Consistently ranked as one of the 10 most performed operas, “La Traviata” (“The Fallen Woman”) tells the story of the tragic love between the courtesan Violetta and the romantic Alfredo.

The show marks Asmar’s fourth time performing with Opera Southwest.

“The easy answer is I would take any job (conductor Anthony Barrese) offered me,” Asmar said in a telephone interview. “I consider him a close friend. I love this company and I love Albuquerque. I feel very at home here.”

Asmar’s musical life began with the violin at age 7.

“Both my parents thought music was very important,” she said. “I went to concerts, I went to ballets. We went into New York City.”

She began singing seriously when a junior high school teacher told her parents to get her private lessons. She continued to study both the violin and voice at Boston University.

“When I finished, I remember looking at my violin teacher and saying, ‘I want to give a really great senior recital. But I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.’ ”

Asmar had been spending between four and five hours a day in the practice room.

Singing “made my soul happy,” she said.

She concentrated on voice for her graduate degree.

Since then, Asmar has sung with the Boston Lyric Opera, Sarasota Opera, Opera Idaho and OperaDelaware. Her Albuquerque performances have included “Otello,” “La Bohème” and a 2016 New Year’s Eve concert.

“La Traviata” is a sweeping love story from the golden age of Italian opera, set against the backdrop of decadent 19th century Paris high society. Violetta rejects her wealthy suitors for the simple life with poor Alfredo, played by Kirk Dougherty.

“I think this character is a challenge,” Asmar said. “It’s easy to classify her as a courtesan and move on. She is used to the life she lives and she is unsure if falling love will be right for her. But she acknowledges the emptiness of the life she lives.”

Alfredo whisks her away to a countryside idyll in the hope of helping her escape her past.

Then Alfredo’s father warns Violetta that if she marries Alfredo, his sister’s engagement will fall apart.

The tubercular Violetta pens a farewell letter to her love.

“She views it as something noble in her life to sacrifice her life to this young girl,” Asmar said.

The music is equally demanding.

“The music is hard to sing; it’s a workout,” she said. “There are long phrases and fast phrases. I translate everything (into English.) It’s practice, practice, practice.”

“La Traviata” premiered in 1853 at Teatro La Fenice in Venice. Verdi’s librettist based the story on an 1848 play by Alexandre Dumas.


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