‘La Traviata’ on Speed

The 90-minute production, while remaining true to time, place, text, and music, will “highlight Verdi’s most famous opera with the most important numbers linked by compelling narrative,” according to Bay Street.
Ashley Bell will sing the role of Violetta in “La Traviata.”

So you might like opera, but don’t want the time commitment and are confused by the plot? Then Divaria’s “La Traviata‚” to be presented at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor on Saturday night, might be for you.

The 90-minute production, while remaining true to time, place, text, and music, will “highlight Verdi’s most famous opera with the most important numbers linked by compelling narrative,” according to Bay Street.

Ashley Bell, the founder of Divaria Productions, which aims to make opera both “easy to digest and entertaining for modern audiences,” said on Friday that the action has been distilled to the three main characters and will be linked by the narrator, the character Violetta, speaking from her deathbed in flashback.
“Opera has been losing a lot of money in the past several years and a lot of companies are trying to re-envision it by doing modern productions,” said Ms. Bell. Some, she said, go too far, changing everything just for the sake of modernization. “I feel we can change the time period, but it is very important to keep the story and the composer’s intent for the music intact.”

She finds the tale of star-crossed lovers, written at the height of the Romantic Movement, compelling, most of all in the character of the misunderstood Violetta, who “evolves from someone devoted only to herself to someone completely selfless, who gives up everything for love. It is an interesting trajectory.”

For those not familiar with the plot, “La Traviata,” which means fallen woman in Italian, is about a frail courtesan with wealthy clients who keep her in luxury. She and Alfredo, a nobleman, fall deeply in love and find happiness living together until his father, Germont, draws them apart. Since it is a tragedy, all does not end well, but it is highly theatrical, which is also appealed to Ms. Bell.

“We try to meld theater with opera,” she said. “It’s a way to bring in audiences who are more familiar with musicals and do like theater, but are afraid of opera.”

The director, Anton Armendariz Diaz, launched a similar production in Spain, with a slightly different focus. Here, they have taken passages from the source material, a novel written by Alexandre Dumas, to flesh out the tale, using the main character’s diary entries for continuity.

Ms. Bell will play Violetta. She will be joined by David Guzman, a Colombian tenor, as Alfredo, and Michael Nansel as Germont. All have an impressive array of performances, reviews, and awards to their credit. Mr. Diaz has been both a stage and film director with several productions.

The performers have been to Bay Street to rehearse, and Ms. Bell said she was excited about the quality of the theater’s technical staff, whose lighting and other effects will highlight the psychology of the opera. The theater-in-the-round setting is expected to make an intimate performance even more so.

A string quartet featured in the production will employ two musicians from Stony Brook University and Rob Davies, a cellist, who teaches at the Ross School. There will also be a small ensemble accompanying the performance that will include several high school students.

The event starts at 8 p.m. Tickets, ranging from $25 to $50, are available at the Bay Street website or box office.