The show must go on…and a strong ‘Traviata’ emerges

What: “Las Traviata”
Where: Lyric Opera,
20 N. Wacker Dr.
When: Through Mar. 22
Tickets: Lyricopera.org

By M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic

Having suffered laryngitis, Albina Shagimuratova has bowed out of Lyric Opera’s “La Traviata.” But the show must go on, and Emily Birsan has stepped in to take the title role of the fallen woman with a heart of gold.

The Ryan Center alumna has a lovely voice, fine stage presence, and solid acting skills so it is a pleasure to see her rise to the occasion. She has poise and charm to match her musical skills.

She is joined on stage by two fine male singers. Giorgio Berrugi makes his Lyric debut as Alfredo, offering alluring sound and a romantic presence. Zeljko Lucic is a noble Germont, making Act II as glorious as it can be.

Zoie Reams also makes her Lyric debut in this production, providing a carefree and pleasing Flora. Reams is a Hyde Park native and former Chicago Children’s Choir member who now lives in Bronzeville. Her introduction to the stage came when she studied as a child at the Hyde Park School of dance with August Tye, Lyric Opera’s ballet mistress.

Michael Christie coaxes a strong Verdi sound from the orchestra and the chorus, prepared by Michael Black, is up to its usual very high standard.

Director Arin Arbus has a sure hand, knowing how to create a lavish party or an intimate conversation. Riccardo Hernandez’s sets are beautiful and Cait O’Connor’s costumes are ravishing.

This two hour, fifty minute production flies along ,and you could well walk out with a tear in your eye.