Metropolitan Opera House
Music: Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave
after the play “La Dame aux camellias”
by Alexandre Dumas
Conductor: Marco Armiliato
Production: Franco Zeffirelli
Sets: Franco Zeffirelli
Costumes: Raimonda Gaetani
Lighting: Duane Schuler
Choreographer: Maria Benitez
Stage Director: Kristine McIntyre
General Manager: Peter Gelb
Music Director: James Levine
Violetta Valéry: Krassimira Stoyanova
Flora Bervoix: Leann Pantaleo
The Marquis d’Obigny: Thomas Hammons
Baron Douphol: John Hancock
Doctor Grenvil: John Cheek
Gastone, Vicomte de Letorières: Tony Stevenson
Alfredo Germont: Jonas Kaufmann
Annina, Violetta’s companion: Kathryn Day
Giuseppe, Violetta’s Servant: David Frye
Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father: Dwayne Croft
A messenger: David Asch
Solo dancers: Annemarie Lucania,
Davis Robertson, Sasha Morena Caponi
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 28, 2007
La Traviata (1853)
Giuseppe Verdi composed 28 operas over 60 years, with half still performed in today’s opera repertoire. Piave, the Traviata librettist, collaborated on 10 works, including Macbeth and Rigoletto. Dumas’ father wrote The Three Musketeers, and Dumas fils wrote the novel as well as the play, La Dame aux camélias. The Met’s current production was created in 1998, designed and directed by Franco Zeffirelli. James Levine conducted at the premiere. Renowned sopranos have performed as Violetta, such as Anna Moffo and Renée Fleming. (Assisted by Met Opera Notes).
Violetta is a 19th century courtesan, who, in Act I, is finishing a night on the town with many friends at her Paris apartment. Her patron, Baron Douphol, and her new admirer, Alfredo Germont, are present, and Alfredo flirts with Violetta in a drinking song. After fainting, Violetta assures her friends that she’s fine. Alfredo persists in his affections, and Violetta plans to meet him the next day. She soon decides that freedom would be better than committed love. In Act II Scene 1, Violetta and Alfredo live in a rented country house near Paris. Alfredo rushes to Paris, however, to help finance Violetta’s house, when he learns of her financial distress. While he’s gone, Flora, Violetta’s friend, invites her to a ball at her house in Paris. In this action, Alfredo’s father arrives to persuade Violetta to give up his son for his family’s honor and the welfare of his two children. Violetta accepts Flora’s invitation and writes Alfredo a goodbye letter, feeling remorse for the family Germont. Violetta dashes to Paris, and Alfredo arrives and reads her goodbye letter, becoming angry. (Assisted by Met Opera Notes).
In Act II Scene 2, fortune teller gypsies and matadors dance at the Mardi Gras party at Flora’s, before Alfredo storms in to confront Violetta, who is with the Baron. The Baron loses a card game to Alfredo, and then Alfredo throws his winnings at Violetta, causing her to fall in anguish. The Baron challenges him to a duel, after Germont, Alfredo’s father arrives to denounce his behavior, as do all the guests. Alfredo mistakenly believes that Violetta deceived him and loved the Baron. In Act III, in Violetta’s bedroom, Violetta’s servant, Annina, learns that Violetta has hours to live from tuberculosis, and, alone, Violetta re-reads a letter that the Baron was only wounded in the duel and that Alfredo will arrive to beg forgiveness. When she hears party-goers in the street she rushes down to see “her friends”, but Alfredo arrives and the lovers plan to leave Paris. When Germont enters with the doctor, Violetta has a momentary surge of strength, and then dies in Alfredo’s arms. (Assisted by Met Opera Notes)
From the moment the overture rapturously swept through the Met, I knew that Marco Armiliato, from Genoa, Italy, would keep proper pace and mood, during this most emotionally ravaging and musically sumptuous Verdi opera. The overture, following its soulful strings and swirling waltz, opened to a grand Parisian salon with plump furniture, enormous chandelier, a multitude of steps, and rich fabrics and beaded costumes. Zeffirelli, Gaetani, and Schuler collaborated for a brilliant aesthetic effect, so warm and inviting, the home of a successful Parisian courtesan. The revelers party till dawn, and, when they boisterously depart, Alfredo (The Munich-born tenor, Jonas Kaufmann) sings with seamless strength and theatrical acumen to his new love, Violetta (the Bulgarian-born soprano, Krassimira Stoyanova). Ms. Stoyanova looked the part, slim, long, thick black hair, somewhat pale, and oh, so vulnerable. Her coughs and posture exemplified a woman in the mixed throes of disease and desire. Her vocal strength was full-throated, warbling, intense, and pitched for perfection.
In Act II, the country scenery was lavish with pastel flourishes and bright sunshine. In fact, Duane Schuler’s lighting was noteworthy for its constant shifts of hour and action. When Ms. Stoyanova sang of deep love, before secretly dashing to Paris, her body trembled with tension and she was as physically illustrative of the storyline as fits the opera genre. Mr. Kaufmann’s voice carried well through the Met, and his presence was exemplary and power-driven. He is visibly young and fit the physique of his role - enamored suitor turned lover. But, it was baritone, Dwayne Croft (Germont, Alfredo’s father), who commanded the stage and riveted the libretto. He sang of his son’s and daughter’s honor, of his need to bring his son home, in such a way that he did not engender the embodiment of evil, of love’s ruin. Rather, he exuded absorption into his moral barometer, his persona defined by country culture and class (suitably Provence).
Also in Act II, the revelry of Mardi Gras was a dance within an opera, Flamenco motifs, wild dance, black masks, costumed bulls on poles, and even solo ballet. The costumes and sets, of reds, pinks, purples, bright blues, and a seeming rainbow of richness, were noteworthy on their own, a masterpiece in visual design. John Hancock, as Baron Douphol, was somewhat passive. I wished he had exuded a more persuasive persona. His vocal strength was suitable, however. Leann Pantaleo, as Flora, hostess of the ball, provided a rich resonance of musical talent, an imposing diva. When Alfredo sang of Violetta’s perceived betrayal and his disgust, Mr. Kaufmann projected the youthful passion inherent in the drama. And, when Violetta fell to the floor in anguish, she projected poignancy and loneliness. Another divine diva.
That sense of loneliness came to fullest fruition in Act III, her final hours. Lying in bed, consumed with consumption, Ms. Stoyanova’s vocal strength remained full and flawless. Her momentary revival was equally powerful, as was her rapid demise. Mr. Kaufmann’s angst at his impending loss of his life’s love was realized in his vocal force and theatrical skill. Germont (Mr. Croft) presented true remorse for sad reality, his son’s lost opportunity for a bit of requited romance. Meanwhile, the bedroom/draped salon set in Act III actually moved upwards into the Met’s rafters, quite a feat and quite a vision, to enable Violetta to force herself downstairs to Alfredo and still be onstage. Kudos to tonight’s talented cast, kudos to Maestro Marco Armiliato, kudos to Franco Zeffirelli, and kudos to Giuseppe Verdi.
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