If you go
What: “La Traviata,” produced by Opera Western Reserve
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Stambaugh Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Ave., Youngstown
Tickets: Call 330-480-0693
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Jessica Stecklein will make her Youngstown debut Friday at Opera Western Reserve’s production of “La Traviata.”
And although he won’t know it, so will her son; Stecklein, you see, is seven months pregnant.
The soprano, who hails from the Washington, D.C., area, will sing the lead role of Violetta when OWR stages Verdi’s famed opera at Stambaugh Auditorium.
The mother of a 1-year-old daughter, Stecklein said her condition won’t affect her performance.
As is usually the case with boys, Stecklein is carrying the baby lower in her abdomen. If she were carrying higher, it could have affected her ability to hit certain notes, she said.
The pregnancy also won’t deter her from the physical demands of performing the opera. Being very athletic, she has gained only baby weight. “I said I wasn’t going to gain any weight [with this pregnancy]. I just have a baby bump,” she said with a chuckle.
A serious runner, Stecklein said she sings better when she feels light. Her due date is Jan. 11, so she is past the fatigue stage and has plenty of energy.
Stecklein is a trained dancer, so it is second nature for her to stay active. And as a coloratura soprano, her voice is also agile. Coloratura refers to vocal music that is elaborately ornamented with runs and leaps, such as that sung by Violetta, her character in “La Traviata.” It’s a role Stecklein has sung many times before to critical acclaim in the Washington area.
As a performer, Stecklein knows that obstacles will arise. “You have to be ready for anything,” she said, explaining that she once had a bout of laryngitis just before singing Violetta in an earlier production of “La Traviata.” Another case in point: Her 1-year-old daughter had a cold and an ear infection last week, and Stecklein herself was also under the weather.
Although the pregnancy has forced Stecklein to put her opera career on hold, she was happy to take the OWR role, because it will only be staged one time and it will keep her voice in practice.
She said she is excited about Friday’s production at Stambaugh. “It will be amazing,” she said.
It was a family connection that brought Stecklein to OWR. Her aunt is Victoria Fiutowski of the Youngstown area, with whom Stecklein is staying. Fiutowski is a choral singer and a member of the Stambaugh Chorus and has a small role in the OWR production. She is the one who first suggested Stecklein for the role of Violetta.
“La Traviata” is being directed by David Vosburgh, who is thrilled with Stecklein. “She is beautiful, and the other voices in the production match her beautifully,” he said. “She is perfect for the role.”
Susan Davenny Wyner is music director, and Barb Luce is costumer. Tenor Timothy Culver of Stow plays Alfredo, Violetta’s lover.
One of the most-produced of all operas, “La Traviata” literally means “the fallen woman,” although it translates differently according to the social mores of the day. It was written and first performed in the 1850s.
It revolves around Violetta, a courtesan who becomes the mistress of Alfredo, a nobleman. They are happily in love and living together, but Violetta breaks off their relationship because it is casting a scandal on Alfredo’s family. However, Alfredo misunderstands and assumes she has left him for another man.
In the end, the misunderstanding is cleared up, and Alfredo comes to Violetta, who has tuberculosis, in time for her to die in his arms.
“The story is so human,” said Vosburgh. “It is about love and sacrifice and has some of Verdi’s most melodic arias. It is absolutely stunning, and the beautiful music puts it into your soul.”