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Violetta in Vegas

Teatro La Fenice
01/05/2020 -  & January 18*, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, 2020
Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata
Maria Grazia Schiavo*/Francesca Sassu (Violetta Valéry), Alessandro Scotto di Luzio*/Stefano Secco (Alfredo Germont), Simone del Savio*/Armando Gabba (Giorgio Germont), Elisabetta Martorana (Flora Bervoix), Sabrina Vianello (Annina), Enrico Iviglia (Gastone), William Corrò (Il barone Douphol), Mattia Denti (Il dottor Grenvil), Matteo Ferrara (Il marchese d’Obigny), Dionigi D’Ostuni*/Domenico Altobelli (Giuseppe), Giampaolo Baldin*/Emanuele Pedrini (Un domestico di Flora), Carlo Agostini*/Lua Ludovici (Un commissionario)
Coro del Teatro La Fenice, Claudio Marino Moretti (chorus master), Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice, Stefano Ranzani (conductor)
Robert Carsen (stage director), Patrick Kinmonth (sets & costumes), Philipe Giraudeau (choreography), Robert Carsen & Peter van Praet (lighting)

S. del Savio, M. G. Schiavo (© Michele Crosera)

The action in the first act takes places in Violetta’s bedroom and is set in the late 60s, though it could be any subsequent decade. The setting is supposedly a huge party, given the number of guests, but the centrality of Violetta’s bed reveals Robert Carsen’s not-so-subtle emphasis on the heroine’s vocation: prostitution. By stating it so explicitly, we see Violetta differently from the usual euphemistic portrayal. Dollar bills are ubiquitous. Several men are showering them on Violetta during the Prelude to Act I and during the party. Carsen imagines Alfredo as a photographer, echoing Antonioni’s Thomas (played by David Hemmings) in the 1966 film Blow-Up. The portfolio he shows her explains how he got to know her and became smitten.

Maria Grazia Schiavo is a moving Violetta. An accomplished actress, she manages to convey Violetta’s emotional state throughout the opera and to make the public identify with her. Though she manages her Act I “Ah fors’è lui...E strano...Sempre libera” admirably, one wishes for a bigger voice. Hers is a soubrette’s voice, ideal for L’elisir d’amore’s Adina or Don Pasquale’s Norina, but too light for Violetta. This is especially evident in her confrontation with Germont Père in Act II. Given her light timbre and small figure, one felt like going on stage to push away the austere man. Likewise, she looks and sounds truly fragile in Act III. Her letter scene and “Addio del passato” were excellently interpreted, but her final “Prendi questa è l’immagine” lacked bite. Sadly, Alessandro Scotto di Luzio’s Alfredo was less than ideal. His timbre is not beautiful and his voice has an irritating vibrato. Nonetheless, he sings with musicality and has a strong stage presence. Best among the leading three roles was Simone del Savio as Germont Père. His timbre is velvety and suave, his diction clear and he sings this role as if it were Bel Canto. His nuanced singing was a welcome relief from barking baritones who invariably sing forte.

The staging, emphasizing Violetta’s métier, got too brutal at the end of “Sempre libera,” when her lover, Baron Douphol, enters during the long scena and her final high note occurs while the Baron is ravishing her. At her idyllic country hideout in Act II, dollar bills instead of tree leaves cover the ground. This emphasizes the origin of Violetta’s wealth, and also dehumanizes her. Given the absence of sets in that scene, Germont Père’s “Pur tanto lusso” is risible.

The second scene of the second Act is the production’s most entertaining. Flora’s party takes place at a night club. The toreadors and gypsy girls that perform the dance number are imagined as Las Vegas-style dancers, scantly dressed as cowboys and cowgirls. Their rather lascivious dances were marvellously choreographed. Alfredo’s “Questa donna conoscete” confrontation with Violetta takes place on the stage of the nightclub, emphasizing the clubgoers’ voyeurism. It also makes the scene much more cruel.

The final act takes place in Violetta’s now squalid apartment. Her expensive furniture is now gone and the centrepiece is a television set. Scaffolding indicates that workers are preparing it for a future tenant. I had mixed feelings about this final scene. While the emptiness of the apartment accentuated the tragedy, its squalidness, the constant traffic of workers and even a passing crowd during the Carnival rendered it strangely banal. Most likely, the message is perhaps that even Violetta’s tragic story is a just passing moment in life. Doubly poignant!

Ossama el Naggar



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