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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: La Traviata

The Met appeases its audience with a new, traditional staging of Verdi's tragic masterpiece.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Juan Diego Floréz and Diana Damrau in the climax of the Brindisi from Act I of La Traviata.
Image © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
Michael Mayer, the director who put Verdi's Rigoletto on the Vegas strip, offers his vision of La Traviata, a staid staging of the composer's tragedy, set in good old 1853. Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Floréz star.

What is La Traviata?
Verdi's 1853 adaptation of the play La Dame aux Camélias was like nothing that came beforee it: a contemporary story with a heart-rending ending that took a bold and unblinking look at a profession and a way of life that was simply not talked about in so-called "polite" society: especially not in Venice where the opera would have its premiere!

What is La Traviata about?
Violetta, the heroine of La Traviata is an entirely original creation, one of the most fleshed out and full-bodied female roles in the repertory. Sexy, coquettish, good-hearted and ultimately doomed, she is a heroine fighting incredible odds: both the snobbery and machinations of French society and the tuberculosis that, at the work's end, kills her.

Tell me something else interesting?
La Traviata is on the list (with works like Madama Butterfly, Carmen and The Barber of Seville) of legendary operas that bombed on their opening night. In 1855 it took the stage in Madrid, and in 1856, the opera came "home" to Paris. It remains a repertory staple, and the title role of Violetta Valéry is one that almost every soprano wants to sing.

What's the music like?
The story of Violetta, her love for the wealthy playboy Alfredo and the forces that come between them (namely Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont) are told to a cavalcade of memorable tunes. The Act I Brindisi, Violetta's high-flying "Sempre libera", Alfredo's idyllic "De' miei bollenti spiriti" and old Germont's moving "Di Provenza il Mar" follow each other in quick succession. The sense of impending doom really kicks in in the final act. Here, Violetta must carry the entire opera on her slender shoulders, with her great "Addio del passato" a moving farewell to Alfredo.

Who's in it?
The first cast features Diana Damrau as Violetta Valery, Juan Diego Flórez as Alfredo Germont and Quinn Kelsey as Germont pére. The second cast stars Anita Hartig, Stephen Costello and both baritone Artur Rucínski and (former Alfredo) Placido Domingo singing the elder Germont. If you want to see Mr. Domingo this is one of his most successful in a series of Verdi baritone roles. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the winter performances and Nicola Luisotti takes over in the spring.

How's the production?
The Met has done a lot of productions of La Traviata with four different stagings mounted over the course of 30 years. This production replaces the controversial Willy Decker staging which modernized the opera and set the action on a bare set dominated by a giant clock. This staging by Michael Mayer promises traditional costumes, ball gowns and the Parisian frou-frou that is usually associated with this story.

When does La Traviata open?
La Traviata opens Dec. 4. The second cast takes the stage on April 5.

Is there a Live in HD broadcast planned?
Yes. There is a broadcast scheduled for Dec. 15.

Where do I get tickets?></>b
Tickets are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save some money on service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza.

Box office hours are: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Which recordings do you recommend?

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