A Reminder from Violetta Valéry
In November 2019, I traveled to Parma, Italy, and sang the soprano solos in Beethoven’s 9th symphony with the Philharmonia di Arturo Toscanini. In three months, that area would be the epicenter of the global pandemic. I have gorgeous footage of a walk I took on the night before I left Italy. For the first time, I went to La Scala to see The Egyptian Helen, an opera I performed when I was a young artist at the Santa Fe Opera in 2001. During that walk, I stopped at the cathedral in Milan to take a selfie video. I joyously turn in circles and marvel at the beauty and history all around me, completely unaware of what was to come just weeks away.
16 months later.
I’m participating in a production of La Traviata with Naples Opera in Florida. I’m singing the role of Violetta, a role I’ve sung since my debut in 2003 with Florida Grand Opera. Renata Scotto directed that production.
I’ve spent an enormous amount of time thinking in these 16 months. What is next for me in music? Will opera survive? What will it look like? Will I still be a valuable asset to the industry? What can I do to keep it going? Do I want to continue? How will I make money if it’s not full-time anymore? Why am I a singer? Why is this important? Is it important? Why am I teaching others if it isn’t important? What do I long to say? Why do I think opera is the place to say it?
And now I am here with the treasure that is La Traviata. While I have so few answers to many of the questions above, this exquisite piece of art has jolted me back into my faith in music. I have rekindled my wonder and awe at the power of great art that transcends time.
Written in 1853, it still has relevance, and its potent message of sacrifice, love, and redemption are as poignant today as they were for me 20 years ago when I first began studying this role. Violetta finds love, and it is taken away from her due to societal objections. When it returns, she is out of time because her illness has progressed too far. When she realizes Alfredo’s return has not brought her health back and that she is at the end, she offers to be an otherworldly comfort to them while they go on with life.