Preview: The Met’s La Traviata Live in HD

A scene from Act II of Verdi's "La Traviata." Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera, Taken March 30, 2012 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

On Saturday April 14, 2012 at 1 pm,the acclaimed French soprano Natalie Dessay makes her Met role debut as Violetta in La Traviata, the fallen woman who sacrifices her last chance for love. Matthew Polenzani co-stars as Alfredo Germont, a young man from a good family who is willing to risk everything for Violetta. Dmitri Hvorostovsky sings Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father, who disapproves of Violetta’s lifestyle but is moved by her plight.

Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leads Verdi’s romantic tragedy, one of the most-loved operas of all time, in Willy Decker’s highly theatrical production, a hit when it premiered at the Met in 2010. In our video below, you can hear Matthew Polenzani, who sings with Marina Poplavskaya. The Met has not yet made any video clips of the current casting available. The photos however, are very recent.

Soprano Deborah Voigt hosts the transmission on April 14 which runs about 2 hours and 40 minutes including one intermission. It can be seen at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the Beacon Cinemas in Pittsfield and the Clark Art Museum in Willliamstown. There will also be repeat telecasts, the U.S. Encore: May 2, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. local time and the Canada Encore: May 26, 2012 at 1 p.m. local time. For more information and to check local theatres that are hosting the Met Live in HD visit http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx

These will be Dessay’s first complete performances of Violetta at the Met, though she sang the character’s famous double aria “Ah fors’è lui…Sempre libera” at the Met’s 125th Anniversary Gala in 2009.

In recent seasons, she has sung the role at the Vienna State Opera, the Aix-en-Provence Festival, and the Santa Fe Opera. Her numerous Met appearances include four new production premieres: Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (2005), the title roles in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (2007) and La Fille du Régiment (2008), and the title role in Bellini’s La Sonnambula (2009). She made her Met debut in 1994 as Fiakermilli in Richard Strauss’s Arabella and has also sung Zerbinetta in his Ariadne auf Naxos and Olympia in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Next season, she will make her Met role debut as Cleopatra in a new production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare.

Polenzani sang Alfredo last season in the premiere of Decker’s production. He first sang the role at the Met in the 2007-08 season. His Met repertory includes numerous Mozart roles: Ferrando in Così fan tutte, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Belmonte in Die Entfuhrüng aus dem Serail, and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni—a role he sang at the Met this season in Michael Grandage’s new production of the opera. His other recent Met engagements include Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Roméo in Roméo et Juliette, David in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff. On opening night of the Met’s 2012-13 season, he will make his house role debut as Nemorino in a new production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore.

Giorgio Germont is one of six Verdi roles in Hvorostovsky’s Met repertory. Earlier this season, he sang his first performances of Don Carlo in Ernani; Met audiences have also heard him as the title character in Simon Boccanegra, Rodrigo in Don Carlo, Renato in Un Ballo in Maschera, and di Luna in Il Trovatore. He has sung the elder Germont, one of his most acclaimed interpretations, more than 20 times at the Met over the past decade. Next season, he stars in a new production of Un Ballo in Maschera and a revival of Don Carlo.

In addition to La Traviata, Luisi conducts this month’s new production premiere of Massenet’s Manon and three complete cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Earlier this season at the Met, he led the new production premieres of Wagner’s Siegfried and Götterdämmerung and Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He will lead next season’s new production of Un Ballo in Maschera, revivals of Verdi’s Aida and Berlioz’s Les Troyens, and three additional Ring cycles.

A scene from Act 2 of Verdi's "La Traviata." Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera (c) 2010.

Synopsis of Verdi’s La Traviata

ACT I. In her Paris salon, the courtesan Violetta Valéry greets party guests, including Flora Bervoix, the Marquis d’Obigny, Baron Douphol, and Gastone, who introduces a new admirer, Alfredo Germont. This young man, having adored Violetta from afar, joins her in a drinking song (Brindisi: “Libiamo”). An orchestra is heard in the next room, but as guests move there to dance, Violetta suffers a fainting spell, sends the guests on ahead, and goes to her parlor to recover. Alfredo comes in, and since they are alone, confesses his love (“Un dì felice”). At first Violetta protests that love means nothing to her. Something about the young man’s sincerity touches her, however, and she promises to meet him the next day. After the guests have gone, Violetta wonders if Alfredo could actually be the man she could love (“Ah, fors’è lui”). But she decides she wants freedom (“Sempre libera”), though Alfredo’s voice, heard outside, argues in favor of romance.

ACT II Some months later Alfredo and Violetta are living in a country house near Paris, where he praises their contentment (“De’ miei bollenti spiriti”). But when the maid, Annina, reveals that Violetta has pawned her jewels to keep the house, Alfredo leaves for the city to settle matters at his own cost. Violetta comes looking for him and finds an invitation from Flora to a party that night. Violetta has no intention of going back to her old life, but trouble intrudes with the appearance of Alfredo’s father. Though impressed by Violetta’s ladylike manners, he demands she renounce his son: the scandal of Alfredo’s affair with her has threatened his daughter’s engagement (“Pura siccome un angelo”). Violetta says she cannot, but Germont eventually convinces her (“Dite alla giovine”). Alone, the desolate woman sends a message of acceptance to Flora and begins a farewell note to Alfredo. He enters suddenly, surprising her, and she can barely control herself as she reminds him of how deeply she loves him (“Amami, Alfredo”) before rushing out. Now a servant hands Alfredo her farewell note as Germont returns to console his son with reminders of family life in Provence (“Di Provenza”). But Alfredo, seeing Flora’s invitation, suspects Violetta has thrown him over for another lover. Furious, he determines to confront her at the party.

At her soirée that evening, Flora learns from the Marquis that Violetta and Alfredo have parted, then clears the floor for hired entertainers – a band of fortune-telling Gypsies and some matadors who sing of Piquillo and his coy sweetheart (“E Piquillo un bel gagliardo”). Soon Alfredo strides in, making bitter comments about love and gambling recklessly at cards. Violetta has arrived with Baron Douphol, who challenges Alfredo to a game and loses a small fortune to him. Everyone goes in to supper, but Violetta has asked Alfredo to see her. Fearful of the Baron’s anger, she wants Alfredo to leave, but he misunderstands her apprehension and demands that she admit she loves Douphol. Crushed, she pretends she does. Now Alfredo calls in the others, denounces his former love and hurls his winnings at her feet (“Questa donna conoscete?”). Germont enters in time to see this and denounces his son’s behavior. The guests rebuke Alfredo and Douphol challenges him to a duel.

ACT III. In Violetta’s bedroom six months later, Dr. Grenvil tells Annina her mistress has not long to live: tuberculosis has claimed her. Alone, Violetta rereads a letter from Germont saying the Baron was only wounded in his duel with Alfredo, who knows all and is on his way to beg her pardon. But Violetta senses it is too late (“Addio del passato”). Paris is celebrating Mardi Gras and, after revelers pass outside, Annina rushes in to announce Alfredo. The lovers ecstatically plan to leave Paris forever (“Parigi, o cara”). Germont enters with the doctor before Violetta is seized with a last resurgence of strength. Feeling life return, she staggers and falls dead at her lover’s feet.

6 thoughts on “Preview: The Met’s La Traviata Live in HD

  1. Just watched the performance. Thought the staging was “unique” and I’m not sure I really like it. First act weak for my taste. Alfredo seemed very nervous and Violetta missed a note and also seemed nervous. 2nd and 3rd acts redeemed themselves. Verdi’s music is so glorious that it survives whatever people try to do…

  2. Just saw. Singing magnificent. I thought the staging and props sterile and dull. I wondered if Natalie was aping Anya in the role to her disadvantage. She is not the type that can bring it off. Carol Adams

  3. It was big diasappointment. I would have liked to see period sets and costumes that would have evoked the era- a reason for seeing opera. The set was sparse and silly.

  4. Very disappointing performance – I love La Traviata – the music is simply glorious. I was disappointed in Violetta and Alfredo’s roles in this performance and felt the entire production was sub par for the Met. Directing and sets were also unsatisfying. Have loved the other HD performancs but felt that La Traviata did not live up to the Met’s typically high standards.

  5. I thought that La Traviata was too abstract for me. It had an interesting chorus tho. Alfredo seemed too old for a man who reacted in a tantrum with his father. A man with such passion required someone younger. And Violetta hiding behind couches… was a little much. I like new variances but this didn’t work for me. Had you called the Opera by another name I might have judged it differently. Hopefully not all the other Operas will be ‘rerouted’ in similar directions.I have to say tho there must be many ways that the Met can save large chunks of money these years by retaining some moods of the original or again call it another name.

    Bernice

  6. I enjoyed all of it. I loved the stark setting—it left room for the music and emotionality of it all to stand out.
    The starkness also represented the sadness of Violetta’s demise. I though Natalie Dessay did an excellent
    acting job. It was a bit odd that she mentioned her errors in the first act, however I enjoyed the tenure of her
    voice throughout. I loved Alfredo and Violetta’ s voices together. I admit there were a few ‘rough’ spots in the first act- it did not decrease my enjoyment of it. I didn’t miss the period’ staging.

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