Piedmont Opera opens its 45th season next week with Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. Performing the leading role of Violetta will be a Ukrainian soprano.

The opera is both a tragedy and very challenging musically. The lead character’s role calls for incredible stamina — Violetta is on stage for practically the entire opera — and technically demanding, with brilliant, virtuosic singing over an enormous dynamic range.

Soprano Yulia Lysenko has the technique, and her experience with the war in Ukraine puts her in touch with the character. Away from the stage, Lysenko thinks of her family. She starts each day with an early morning phone call to make sure they’re alive. They’re in a small village in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast region, 35 miles from the war-damaged nuclear power plant, under Russian occupation. She says both her experience and the performance itself move her to tears.

“Doing this production allows me to have something good in my life, you know,” says Lysenko. “I like have some button in my head and I push it and I’m like in a different world.”

The opera is based on a real-life, rags-to-riches story. It portrays a 19th-century French woman who quickly rose through Parisian society’s ranks to become one of that city’s most celebrated courtesans before succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of 23. Piedmont Opera’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata opens Friday, October 21, at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem.



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