La Traviata – Verdi – Metropolitan Opera New York
April saw the opening of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of La Traviata under the direction of the Tony Award winning Michael Mayer. The visually beautiful Belle Epoch sets designed by Christine Jones and expertly lit by Kevin Adams formed the corner stone for all 3 Acts with subtle differences in lighting to reflect the different scenes.
The sets also had a central vortex to add some upward space. Unfortunately this detracted from the vocal output of the singers as their sound disappeared into the rafters of this huge stage. This flawed design was supplemented by the Disney-like colourful costumes beautifully designed by Susan Hilferty, but frankly wholly over the top.
There were also too numerous faux pas in the direction. To mention but three, Mayer starts the evening’s proceedings through a musically uneven overture with Violetta’s dream of her current demise and past. This dream seems to find its journey throughout all three Acts with her dying bed remaining on stage throughout - which really does get in the way of all the action. Moreover, in the second and third Acts Giorgio Germont’s daughter appears on stage and although this is not a new concept it simply interfered in an unnatural way with the action and added nothing to what should have been entirely intimate scenes.
But, perhaps the worst direction came in the finale of Act three when Violetta who was dying of consumption and about to breathe her last breath appeared on stage beautifully coiffed with an immaculately clean white nighty and sang most of that Act standing or walking. It was an outrageous misinterpretation of what should have been a deeply emotional dying scene and left the writer wholly underwhelmed with the lack of emotional intensity.
Musically the evening was distinctly average. The Conductor, Nicola Luisotti, did not appear to be in total control of the balance between the pit and stage and whilst the orchestra and chorus both performed admirably Luisotti’s pace during the evening was somewhat slow and laborious and missed a lot of the desire that was needed to help propel the action towards its deathly conclusion.
The singers did their best. Anita Hartig was an intense Violetta, but she has proved in the past to be a consummate opera actress and this was not fully on show in this production. Her Germont was the admirable tenor of Stephen Costello and his father was the aristocratic baritone, Artur Rucinski.