The Jacobs School of Music production of the opera “La Traviata," or “The Fallen Woman,” by Giuseppe Verdi opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Musical Arts Center. Performances continue on Saturday and March 6 and 7.
The opera is based on the book “La Dame aux Camélias” by Alexandre Dumas Jr. Violetta, known as Marguerite Gautier in the book, is based on a person named Marie Duplessis, Dumas’ real-life mistress.
The plot takes place in Paris and features a love story between Alfredo Germont, an upper-class man, and Violetta Valéry, a prostitute who has been sick for about a year. The show starts at a party when Violetta decides to reenter society as if she is not ill. She uses parties to distract herself from her illness.
Alfredo is at the party and confesses his love. He had been watching her for the past year, paying attention to her and her sickness. The rest of the show is about how Violetta struggles with being loved by Alfredo while facing pressure from societal expectations and Alfredo's family.
“I think there are a lot of stories about women who are coquettish and tricksters and good at manipulating men,” Hayley Lipke, a doctoral student who plays Violetta, said. “What’s really beautiful about this is this is a woman who’s used to getting what she wants out of men but takes a chance on love and being a sincere person.”
Lipke is studying opera and will perform Saturday and March 6.
The show’s artistic director is Francesca Zambello, the Washington National Opera director. The show is double-casted, with one cast performing Friday and March 7 and the other performing Saturday and March 6.
Lipke said some of the opera’s key themes are self-worth and acceptance, something Violetta struggles with. Keeping up with societal expectations is especially relatable today because of the presence of social media, she said.
“Very often can I tap into my own question of my self-worth,” Lipke said. “When you’re playing such an intensely emotional and dramatic role, I think you carry it with you everywhere you go.”
Brad Bickhardt, a second-year master’s student studying vocal performance, is playing Alfredo. He will perform Friday and March 7. He said his character struggles with ignorance in the beginning and faces harsh experiences.
“He deals a lot with reconciling maturity and clear thinking and also passion,” he said.
Associate director Michael Shell said the opera is atypical because most of the time when people sing, time continues to pass, unlike in other musicals or operas when time seems to freeze when people sing solos.
“There are very few moments where they’re just standing there and singing,” Shell said. “It just kind of keeps going, which makes it very exciting.”
Bickhardt said the opera is very dramatic. It is a realistic setting, but emotions run high, he said.
“It’s like a Hollywood sort of opera,” he said.
Tickets can be purchased through the Jacobs website and start at $5 for students and $15 for adults. The performances will also be streamed on IUMusicLive! on Friday and Saturday.
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