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Verdi’s "La Traviata", Live in HD Series, Outdoors at the Metropolitan Opera House
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Verdi’s "La Traviata", Live in HD Series, Outdoors at the Metropolitan Opera House

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Verdi’s La Traviata
(Live in HD Series Web Page)
At the
Metropolitan Opera

Outdoors at the
Metropolitan Opera House

Natalie Dessay as Violetta
Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo
Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Germont
Principal Conductor, Fabio Luisi

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave
Production: Willy Decker
Set & Costume Designer: Wolfgang Gussmann
Lighting Designer: Hans Toelstede
Choreographer: Athol Farmer

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 24, 2013

La Traviata (1853)
Original Recorded Production, April 14, 2012
(Read the Synopsis of La Traviata).

The Metropolitan Opera opened its August 2013, Live in HD Series on the Plaza with Verdi’s La Traviata. This 2005 Willy Decker production, introduced at The Met on New Year’s Eve, 2010, and performed, for this HD video recording, on April 14, 2012, is surreal, electric, and staged with minimalist construction, color, and complexity. Natalie Dessay sang the soprano role of Violetta, with Matthew Polenzani in the tenor role as her lover, Alfredo, and Dmitri Polenzani in the baritone role as Alfredo’s father, Germont. Those familiar with the variations in ballet, opera, film, and theatre of Alexandre Dumas, fils’ 1848 La Dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), know that Marguerite (Violetta in this Italian opera), a courtesan, dying of consumption, is deeply in love with Armand (Alfredo in the opera), a man of some means, but his father, M. Duval (Germont in the opera), beseeches Violetta to give up her relationship with his son, to keep his family’s social reputation and standing in their bourgeois community.

Ms. Dessay is a mesmerizing performer, with theatrics that match her outstanding voice. She sings with strength but vulnerability, clarity but shifts in volume, that occasionally trail to a whisper. Her costumes, by Wolfgang Gussmann, are a striking red cocktail dress, a white silky slip, and a bright red-pink-black floral drape. The floral drape matches a similar wrapping on Mr. Polenzani, that also matches a second stage set with the same florals draped on white leather chairs and couch, as well as walls and doors. Even the giant white-black clock that ticks toward midnight, is draped in florals. Gussmann’s first stage set had been a minimal red leather couch, walls that seem to be grated cement, like a prison, and a semi-circle opening near the rafters where the chorus or a solo character can be seen and heard, peering and singing. The chorus is all in black, male, party attire, tuxedoes, hats, heavy makeup, a contemporary Greek chorus. There’s also a third key character, Dr. Grenvil, who is almost always present onstage, usually near or gazing at the clock, the figure of Violetta’s impending death. Violetta’s female attendant, in long black costuming, comes and goes, as well.

The contrasting champagne toasts and celebratory chorus add a psychically unsettling aura to the opera’s foreboding imagery. The simplicity of the story and staging, and the powerful, professional vocals make this Met production riveting and distinguished. Mr. Polenzani is a fascinating performer, with polish and tantalizing vocal talent. His solos of yearning and his musical expressions of eternal love (bright, clear English translations appear right on the screen) were captivating and charged. Dmitri Hvorostovsky, the tall, imposing baritone, was filled with compelling charisma, as these HD opera films allow for intense close-ups, larger than life, on the big screen, an opera experience that zeros in on each performer’s facial gestures and nuanced expressiveness. Principal Conductor, Fabio Luisi, kept the Met Orchestra resonant, ravishing, and resounding. The music filled the entire Plaza and beyond, with the Met Opera’s well-placed amplification systems. Click HERE for the 2013-2014 opera schedule and tickets.

Natalie Dessay in "La Traviata"
Courtesy of Met Opera Website

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at