WESTFIELD, NJ — The New Jersey Festival Orchestra performed a modern version of Verdi’s classic masterpiece “La Traviata” on Saturday evening in Westfield. The NJFO’s performance of the opera, which originally debuted in 1853, featured iPhones, MacBooks and one bright blue wig.  

Starring soprano Jessica Sandige and tenor Cody Austin, “La Traviata” tells the tragic love story of Violetta and Alfredo, a young couple torn apart by illness and betrayal. In Saturday night’s version, Violetta and Alfredo wore t-shirts and flip-flops, arguing over text messages and cigarettes.

“It was a good performance,” audience member Patianne McNamara-Tomaio, a classically-trained vocalist, said of the show. “It had love, death and everything in between, which is what an opera is supposed to be.”

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According to the NJFO program, “La Traviata”  has been the most-performed opera worldwide since 2012.

“It is almost shocking to note that NJFO has never performed Verdi’s ‘La Traviata,’” Maestro David Wroe wrote in the program. “We are putting that to right this season.”

In addition to the modern props, the orchestra also used dramatic lighting to emphasize romance, anger and drama, as determined by stage director Maria Todaro.  The actors performed in Italian while English supertitles were projected above the stage for translation.

“We had 488 people in the audience,” NJFO operations manager Elizabeth Kolesar said. “It’s tricky with opera, but we appreciate everyone who turns out to support the orchestra.”

The NJFO repated their performance at Drew University on Sunday.

The opera was presented in conjunction with Ray Catena of Union. It has been made possible through additional  support of the DeAlessandro family in memory of Joseph T. DeAlessandro, Marty Jeivens, the NJ State Council on the Arts and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Learn more about the NJFO at www.njfestivalorchestra.org.