After an absence of almost four years, opera returns to the Community Center Theater stage in front of what is projected to be a near-capacity crowd. This Saturday night, the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera will present Verdi’s La Traviata.
Also returning to the region is Metropolitan Opera soprano, Jennifer Black. Born in Fremont, this prodigal daughter returns to Northern California for the first time in 15 years to perform the iconic role of Violetta. Black recalls the exact moment she fell in love with opera.
When I was a senior in high school, I went to Houston Grand Opera’s production of Norma and Carol Vaness was singing Norma. You know, I didn’t know who she was, I didn’t really know the plot or anything about the opera, but she sang a note, and it surrounded me. It was so visceral, and I thought, “THAT, that is what I want to do!”
Had you been a singer before that?
No, no. I was in theater before that; I was a dedicated thespian. The choir teacher heard me audition for her when I was a sophomore in high school, and so she said you know, “You have a really good voice, you should think about joining choir.” And I said, “I would love to but I can’t, I’m very devoted to theater.” But then a few things happened, and I decided that I should try for choir, and that’s what I did my senior year.
Can you tell us a little bit about La Traviata?
All right, so from Violetta’s point of view -- that’s the character I play. She’s a courtesan, and she’s very educated, very well read, and she came down with this “little thing” called tuberculosis. And she decided to take a year off. And the opera opens with her sort of “coming out party,” and she learns at that party that there is this man, Alfredo, that has been asking after her every day. And she finds out that he’s actually real, that he really does love her because she’s heard this before. And so she finally lets herself be loved and love someone and gives into that and decides that she wants to be with him for as long as she can be because she knows that her days are numbered.
You’ve got peppy music; you’ve got party music, you’ve got consumption, you have death, you know, there’s a little bit of humor in there. And the music is just so gorgeous! You will recognize at least a few pieces.
I think it’s been close to four years since Sacramento has had an operatic production and here you are playing Violetta in Traviata. Do you feel any personal responsibility, do you feel any pressure for lack of a better term, coming to this production knowing that this is the first one back in Sacramento for a little while?
That’s true, you know I didn’t know that before I signed the contract. But, yeah there is a sense of responsibility, and I think that me and my cast mates and the orchestra will do a great job in pleasing the audience. We are doing it more of a concert style. And this is a way to reintroduce the opera in a way that is economically sound. But yet you still get the message across; you still get the music, you still get the beautiful music and hopefully a teaser for what is to come.