This season marks 4 years since Willy Decker’s trendy, insightful La traviata was ousted on the Met, and Michael Mayer’s grimly cheesy substitute remains to be turning what must be appointment opera, on this case Nadine Sierra’s grand and lovely Violetta, into barely-watchable schlock.
The manufacturing’s solely profitable use of symbolic imagery can also be its first: the odd body across the stage, on which the Met home’s partitions, with their embossed midcentury trendy sample, morph into gold filigree vines. It’s an ideal metaphor for the manufacturing itself, which appears intent on pulling every little thing it touches into the worst form of ersatz-baroque extra.
Which brings me to Sierra, singing her first Violetta on the Met. I do know her to be a type of uncommon singers able to actual performing from the operatic stage; her Lucia final season was vocally spectacular and theatrically naturalistic, a humorous, attractive, and human portrayal of a personality who is just not usually given such dimensionality.
Right here, Sierra is vocally past spectacular. On Tuesday, “Sempre libera” alone confirmed a contact of the hassle required to sing this materials; whether or not on account of opening night time pleasure or the necessity to marshal assets for the E-flat, Sierra’s breath acquired away from her a bit. In any other case, she was completely in management, her voice at turns voracious, with an assault like a mountain cat, heat, with a come-hither high quality, and wonderful, with a decadent, unfurling richness.
Even amongst these musical delights, nonetheless, I missed the relaxed, instinctive character of her Lucia, which right here gave solution to an all too acquainted repertoire of melodramatic stage gestures: she swished her skirts round, she tossed her head, she flung out her arms, she sank to her knees. It’s somewhat disappointing to see such a vocally expansive Violetta strike the identical gaudy outdated diva postures, nevertheless it’s hardly stunning.
Nuance, restraint, edge, interpretation—these components are anathema to Mayer’s manufacturing. The night’s solely real shock was when Violetta hurled her champagne flute and it audibly smashed; the airbrushed, plastic filigree of this world wouldn’t appear to permit something that might rupture so violently. It definitely wouldn’t permit for any performing that goes past a collection of poses. Meryl Streep couldn’t deliver nuance to Violetta below these situations.
Sierra’s larger-than-life diva mode, whereas no true detriment to her sound, did prolong to a form of vocal tackiness that was in reality endemic among the many solid. For instance, no lengthy observe sung by both Sierra or Stephen Costello as Alfredo glided by with out an prolonged maintain, milked for optimum impression.
Conductor Daniele Callegari’s largely speedy tempos had been at instances at odds with these singers’ wishes to luxuriate, though there have been nonetheless, in some way, moments of disconnect during which singers rushed forward of him. Nonetheless, a little musical tackiness is at the very least a pleasurable form of cheesy.
It’s inconceivable to overstate how fully with out visible pleasure this manufacturing is. The set, which stays static all through however for some seasonally-themed (and painfully symbolically apparent) gildings, contains a powder blue kind-of-dome, with but extra gold filigree caked onto the partitions, a giant gap within the high with a pleasant portray of the sky in it, and a Pottery Barn Teen bed room set, with the mattress squarely within the center.
Between the curved wall behind, the gold body in entrance, and the mattress lifeless middle, the singers are restricted in what they’ll truly do on this stage. They’ll stroll to the mattress and sit sadly down on its edge or they’ll stroll laps sadly across the mattress, with or with no scene associate following sadly at their heels. Often, for selection’s sake, somebody will brace their palms on the mattress, and lean sadly ahead, bowing their head.
This finite vary of movement was significantly noticeable within the act two materials between the 2 Germonts, during which Luca Salsi, stiff and gruff as Giorgio, and Costello, stiff and sullen as Alfredo, sat down, stood up, and encircled the mattress extra instances than I may depend.
“Stiff,” in reality, appeared to be the household trait of the Germonts on this Traviata. Costello’s voice began out coated and belabored; whereas he warmed up considerably over the course of the night to sing the final acts in tremendous voice certainly, his performing confirmed no comparable trajectory in direction of ease, and he and Sierra had little in the way in which of chemistry.
Salsi had a blunt-force high quality to his voice that imperfectly suited Germont’s extra conflicted cruelty. He, too, by no means fairly appeared to be on the identical stage as Sierra once they shared scenes. However, once more, on this manufacturing there simply isn’t the form of stage that nurtures connection.
With its cyclical, seasonal motif, and staged Prelude that pre-echoes the staging of Violetta’s demise, Mayer’s Traviata needs to convey a haunted premonition of inevitable tragedy. As an alternative, the manufacturing is haunted by one thing else fully: the spectre of a a lot better manufacturing of La Traviata.
For somewhat below a decade, Decker’s Traviata proved on the Met stage that an opera manufacturing might be easy, trendy and insightful. That, in reality, when staged with readability and intentionality, a manufacturing can mix with its supply materials to kind a bit of artwork with its personal identification and standpoint.
By comparability, Mayer’s Traviata is a lot worse than a foul and tasteless manufacturing—it’s a Traviata that actively makes its supply materials and its performers worse. And that is a tragedy on a par with tuberculosis.