Sarah Cooper as Violetta and Tshombe Selby as Alfredo performing La Traviata, Saturday, February 2.
Sarah Cooper as Violetta and Tshombe Selby as Alfredo performing La Traviata, Saturday, February 2.

Opera came to the Outer Banks on Saturday night and it was a grand and wonderful experience.

There has been light opera before—the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan have been performed on the Outer Banks by the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Company, but never anything like this.

The La Traviata Story

Verdi’s La Traviata has stood the test of time remarkably well since its 1853 debut. Perhaps its Violetta, the free-spirited woman who proclaims it is her right to choose lovers. Perhaps it is the devotion of Alfredo and his toast to true love that turns her heart. Maybe its Giorgio, the father, who believes he knows what’s best for his son, his meddling only leads to tragic results.

But the themes, as universal as they may be, become secondary to the music in performance. And the music becomes secondary to the voices that tell the story.

Brought to the stage by the local nonprofit Elizabeth R & Company with help from the Bryan Cultural Series, La Traviata was a way to showcase the talent of Manteo native Tshombe Selby who Elizabeth R has been sponsoring in his quest to develop a career in opera.

Selby played Alfredo, and his powerful, nuanced tenor voice was perfect for the role. Sarah Cooper in the role of Violetta was transcendent as the beautiful courtesan who discovers that there is love.

The interplay between Cooper and Selby was magnificent with their voices playing off each other wonderfully. It created a magical night of theater.

Yet, as good as their performances were, perhaps the most intense scene occurred when Alfredo discovers that his father had gone to Violetta and convinced her to break off the relationship. 

The rage Alfredo is feeling seems palpable as Selby sits stone-faced as his father tries to justify his actions behind him.

Great acting; great theater and a wonderful night at the opera.

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