Sopranos Amy Feather (left) and Jacquelynne Fontaine are double cast as Violetta in Rogue Opera's production of 'La Traviata.' - Photos courtesy of Rogue Opera

'The Fallen Woman'

"La Traviata" has been called "the perfect opera," one that, according to producer Noel Koran, "has absolutely divine music and will touch anyone in the audience." Staged by Rogue Opera, it's coming to the Grants Pass Performing Arts Center and the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford, bringing back two favorite singers from last year, Kreshnik Zhabjaku and Jacquelynne Fontaine. Fontaine sings the soprano title role of Violetta, Zhabjaku the baritone, Giorgio. They had lead roles here in "The Marriage of Figaro."

The role of Violetta has been double-cast for two sopranos, Amy Feather and Fontaine.

"It's really exciting to have this caliber of talent," says Koran, noting the opera will be the fully staged and costumed version of Giuseppi Verdi's 1853 work, sung in original Italian with English supertitles on the proscenium arch.

"La Traviata" will show at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at the Performing Arts Center, 830 N.W. Ninth St., Grants Pass; and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 29, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at the Craterian, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Rogue Opera will present two sopranos for the lead role: Feather of Washington on April 23 and 29 and Fontaine of Los Angeles on May 1.

Zhabjaku should handily engage his role, as he literally grew up in Albania's opera world, where his mother was a coach at the National Opera House.

"I would listen to rehearsals all the time and — by age 6 — had 'La Traviata' entirely memorized," says Zhabjaku in a phone interview. "It's a vocally demanding role, one of the most loved for me, and has such a beautiful legato line."

As Georgio, whose son wants to marry the courtesan Violetta, who is beneath the family's class, "I'm a desperate father, and it's my job to make him realize he can't ... . I do all in my power to destroy the relationship," says Zhabjaku.

"But I come to realize Violetta (who has a terminal illness) loves my son more purely than anyone could, and I change my attitude as a character and a human being and recognize the sacrifice she has made for my family."

"La Traviata" ("The Fallen Woman") was taken from the true memoir of Alexander Dumas (the younger) and, says Koran, is one of the three most loved and performed operas in the world, along with "La Boheme" and "Madame Butterfly."

As Violetta, Fontaine says the role for women is equivalent to what men experience playing Hamlet: "a difficult and demanding role. She has such a deep, emotional well."

Fontaine got her introduction as a child, watching Greta Garbo play the role on screen and, going over the translation, says she burst into tears three times.

"It's the ultimate story of redemption, forgiveness and sacrifice: a woman's love that transcends and a father's love for his son."

Koran will present free pre-performance lectures before each production of "La Traviata." The lectures are set for 2:15 p.m. April 23 at the Performing Arts Center; 6:45 p.m. April 29 and 2:15 p.m. May 1 at the Craterian.

The opera is choreographed by Diane Hyrst, with Samuel McCoy conducting and James Callon as Alfredo, suitor of Violetta. Other singers are Brianne Cardona, Linday Panero, Erik Connolly, Dan Gibbs and Steven Gutierrez.

Tickets for the Medford show may be purchased at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford; at www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000. Tickets cost $27, $35 and $43; $10, $15 and $22 for ages 18 and younger. Seniors receive a 10 percent discount.

Tickets for the Grants Pass show cost $30, $10 for ages 22 and younger, and are available at Great Northwest Music, 220 S.W. G St., Grants Pass, or by calling 541-956-8600 or 541-608-6400.

John Darling is a freelance reporter living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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