The original 'Pretty Woman' comes to Duluth

La Traviata
"La Traviata," performed by The Duluth Festival Opera.
The Duluth Festival Opera

Violetta Valery is the infamous Parisian courtesan who is ready to give it all up -- wealth, glittering parties, and numerous paramours -- for the one man she truly loves.

But it's not meant to be.

Although men of Verdi's society openly lived with mistresses in illicit relationships, it was against all possible norms to allow one of these women to cross over into polite society.

In its new and updated production, the Duluth Festival Opera spins this tragic tale of "La Traviata" and sets it in Hollywood of the 1930s.

That was a time of "casting couches," a studio's total control of an actress' life, and other female exploitations that were carefully hidden in the shadows of the bright lights of stardom.

As Julia Roberts' "Pretty Woman" watched the opera "La Traviata" and recognized her own life, Duluth Festival Opera's Violetta, played by the equally stunning Penelope Shumate, will watch the silver screen's divas in their screen tests as they compete for lives of glamour and wealth, often losing their dignity in the process.

MPR classical music host Alison Young spoke with Craig Fields, artistic director of the Duluth Festival Opera, about Verdi's opera and how it was received in its own time.