Amarillo Opera to open season with 'La Traviata,' starring Suzanne Ramo and Eric Barry
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David Pershall, Suzanne Ramo and Eric Barry star in "La Traviata."
Photo by Chip Chandler

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

One of the world's most recognizable operas will be staged in Amarillo, starring a pair of singers who themselves are quite well-known around here.

Giuseppi Verdi's La Traviata, an iconic work that hasn't been staged by the company since 2006 in its first production in the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 and 7 in the Globe-News Center, 500 S. Buchanan St.

"It's one of the perennial Top 10 operas, one of the most recognized," said David O'Dell, the company's general director. "It's the opera from Pretty Woman, and we'll try to play that up a little bit and hope the familiarity of the music and the story will help bolster the (sales)."

Starring in the production are Suzanne Ramo, director of West Texas A&M University's opera workshop following a career as a professional singer that has taken her around the world, and Eric Barry, a former Amarillo resident and WT graduate whose own career has found him hopping the globe.

"Alfredo is a fabulous role, and Eric is perfect for it," O'Dell said. "I think that with the amount of experience he's gained as he travels around the world, his voice has settled in and gotten a lot richer.

"He's always had a fabulous voice, but ... there's a richer, more mellow sound now. We're just thrilled to have him back."

Ramo starred in the company's 2006 production and once again will play Violetta, a courtesan who is romanced by the wealthy Alfredo despite the strenuous objections of his father (sung by David Pershall).

O'Dell said he wasn't initially aware that Ramo had performed Violetta in Amarillo before his tenure began, but her experience then and on tour with the opera with San Francisco Opera's Western Opera Theater made her stand out.

"Violetta's in her heart and part of her skin, basically," O'Dell said.

Ramo calls Violetta "one of my favorite roles." 

"I like the dramatic arc. ... In the beginning, she tells Alfredo, 'I can't love you' — like, 'I don't do love.' But in the second act, she has seen how he feels and fallen very deeply in love with him," she said.

"Vocally, it's a huge challenge," she said. "I go from lighter (material) ... to really heavy singing by the end."

The part is "a really, really difficult role to cast," O'Dell said.

"It starts out really as a lyric soprano and progressively, as each act goes along, it gets more and more dramatic," he continued. "To find somebody who has the flexibility and the freshness of voice to sing the first act and then the dramatic depth and color to sing the last act is really difficult." 

Alfredo, for his part, is unabashed in his pursuit, said Barry, who gave Panhandle PBS's audience on Facebook a preview of his singing. 

"Some people would say he's just dumb because of the decisions Alfredo makes," Barry said.

And, because it's a tragic opera, don't expect the story to end happily for poor Violetta — which is just fine for Ramo.

"One of the reasons opera endures is because of those universal themes — love, death," she said. "With high drama, even though it's larger than life, it gives us something we can relate to."

Traviata marks the first time Barry and Ramo have worked together (Ramo began her career at WT several years after he graduated).

"It makes me feel like I'm part of a larger tradition (at WT)," Ramo said.

Tickets are $20 to $90, plus fees. Call 806-372-7464 or 806-378-3096.




Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.