La Traviata – Giuseppe Verdi’s Groundbreaking Opera about a Courtesan

La Traviata pic
La Traviata

A native of Belgium with roots in France and a Southern California classical musical sphere, Kristof Van Grysperre guides Angels Vocal Art as artistic director. Over the years, Kristof Van Grysperre has conducted numerous acclaimed operas and he tackled Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata in 2015.

One of the definitive works of the 19th century Italian composer, La Traviata was controversial at the time of its debut for its humanistic portrayal of the courtesan Violetta. This theme presented itself at a time when Verdi and Giuseppina Strepponi, a renowned soprano, were engaged in a scandalous unmarried relationship. After taking in a theatrical performance of Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux camelias with his romantic partner, he decided that this story would be the basis of his next work.

The narrative, fictionalized from Dumas’ own affair with a high profile courtesan who died at the age of 23, resonated with Verdi. Reflecting the freshness of the story, he decided to pair music that was strikingly contemporary in its use of polka and waltz styles. An immediate success despite critical approbation, La Traviata endures in large part because of the way in which Verdi delved into the substance of a woman who many disparaged and found something in her that many could identify with.


Golden-Voiced Postwar Opera Tenor Carlo Bergonzi

As a maestro and the artistic director of Angels Vocal Art in Pasadena, California, Kristof Van Grysperre guides an organization that broadens opera awareness and provides training to the next generation of singers. Kristof Van Grysperre’s institution has its roots in master classes presented in Pasadena in 2006 by operatic tenor Carlo Bergonzi. His efforts led to the development of additional master classes in China and vocal competitions spanning 30 cities.

Bergonzi is recognized as one of the luminaries of postwar opera, and he was particularly known for his interpretations of opera composer Giuseppe Verdi. Rich in dramatic intensity, Bergonzi’s performances were imbued with originality in tone and phrasing, as well as deep traditions. Living for much of his life in the village of Busseto, where Verdi had also lived, he brought an authenticity to his performances that was unmatched.

Having spent part of World War II in a German prison camp, Bergonzi began his career as a baritone and sang in a variety of operatic roles before discovering his higher register in 1950 while warming up for a role in Madama Butterfly. Following three months of intensive voice practice, Bergonzi took on a number of Verdi tenor roles in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death. From that time on, he gained increasing acclaim for a golden voice that imparted a timeless elegance to every composition he sang. By the time he passed away in 2014 at age 90, Carlo Bergonzi represented a golden era of Italian opera.

A Look Ahead to Long Beach Opera’s 2019 Performances

Since 2015, Kristof Van Grysperre, a native of Belgium with roots in France, has served as artistic director for Angels Vocal Art, a Southern California-based organization that develops emerging talent through music education and performance. Kristof Van Grysperre previously served as resident conductor for Long Beach Opera.

Long Beach Opera (LBO) has announced the dates and venues for its 2019 performances, which will examine justice and injustice through three productions. The 2019 season will kick off with The Black Cat, an opera that brings an Edgar Allen Poe novella to life using drama and music combining the work of J.S. Bach and English songwriter David Sylvian. The Black Cat will be staged January 19 and 20 at Long Beach’s Beverly O’Neill Theater.

LBO’s 2019 season will continue in April with a production of Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colony, which is based on a Franz Kafka short story of the same name. The opera will be performed in collaboration with CALREP Long Beach at CSULB Studio Theater. There will be a total of eight show dates during the last week of April and the first week of May.

To wrap up the season, LBO will present the world premiere of The Central Park Five, an opera that examines a true case of legal injustice from the 1980s. Featuring music by Anthony Davis and a libretto by Richard Wesley, the opera will be staged June 15, 22, and 23 at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro, California. More information about LBO’s 2019 performances is available at

Candide, a Comedic Operetta That Satirizes Optimism


Candide pic

A native of Belgium with roots in France and an accomplished vocal coach, conductor, and pianist, Kristof Van Grysperre has led Angels Vocal Art as artistic director and conductor since 2015. Most recently, Kristof Van Grysperre conducted the company’s production of Candide.

Playwright Lillian Hellman worked alongside American composer Leonard Bernstein to bring Voltaire’s famous novella Candide to life on the stage. Initially, Hellman intended for the adaptation to be a play with only background music, but Bernstein suggested they write the show in the form of a comic operetta. Candide made its debut in 1956 but later underwent several revisions. Today, productions of the show use not Hellman’s original libretto, but content from a commissioned text by Hugh Wheeler.

Told across two acts, Candide follows the story of its eponymous character, a resident of the country Westphalia and nephew to Baron Thunder-ten-Tronck. Though he is in love with the Baron’s daughter, Cunegonde, the Baron will not allow them to be together because Candide is an illegitimate member of the family. After the Baron exiles Candide for becoming engaged to his daughter, the story takes a satirical look at the ideas of happiness and optimism. Among other travails, Candide must endure the Spanish Inquisition, shipwreck, the loss of his fortune, and separation from Cunegonde. Bernstein sets the plot against such classic pieces as “Glitter and Be Gay” and “The Best of All Possible Worlds.”