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Soprano Poplavskaya gives her soul to the role of Violetta

June 3, 2009 | 10:00 am

Lrg-867-poplavskaya_marina_--_color_portrait Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya, 32, comes across as an even-tempered artist -- but even she becomes a little testy when those around her don't take her work as seriously as she does. 

 "I do get angry when some of the people at airport customs ask me: 'What are you doing for a living?' -- and when I say, 'I'm an opera singer,' they say: 'Oh, sing us something,' " she exclaimed indignantly to the very sympathetic Culture Monster in a conversation in her dressing room at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. That's where Poplavskaya is portraying the doomed Parisian courtesan Violetta Valery in the Los Angeles Opera production of Verdi's "La Traviata" (the Italian phrase is variously translated as "The Woman Who Strayed," "The Fallen Woman" and "The Wayward Woman").

For Poplavskaya, there is no separating herself from the role. "We can't play with somebody else's emotions that don't belong to us," she observes.

 "The character of Violetta is very illusional; we can't speak about a real person, because it might be me, it might be you," she continues. "I'm not going to be her, I'm always myself; that's what makes it harder, because to all Poplavskaya as Violetta characters and situations I try to bring something about this life, what I hold in my heart. In music, I am blessed to have all these roles to express the tiniest grain of emotion." 

Poplovskaya finds Violetta's character in the music: "Verdi started the intro with this very fine, thin line -- that's her, that's her soul, wandering through the opera, so delicate that you can't breathe on it or it will disappear," says the singer.

Violetta lived for love, and so does Poplavskaya. She is divorced but in love again, this time with a fellow opera singer; she will not give his name. "To love and be loved is the greatest thing that can happen," she says dreamily. "Any piece of art that was created, ever, it was because of love."

Click here to read more about Poplavskaya, and "La Traviata," in my Calendar story.

-- Diane Haithman

Review: Marina Poplavskaya triumphs in Los Angeles Opera 'La Traviata'

Photos: Poplavskaya. Courtesy of Los Angeles Opera.  In the role of Violetta in L.A. Opera's "La Traviata:" Credit: Christine Cotter/Los Angeles Times