I wish I could have been as excited as Vivian to see San Francisco Opera’s production of La traviata, but I’m afraid this one felt rather flat for me. Perhaps that is why, even though I wrote most of this right after seeing it in June, I never bothered to publish it until now.
Don’t get me wrong, I like this opera; it was one of the first I ever saw live, and I was looking forward to this production. While there was nothing particularly wrong with it, after the energy of Show Boat, it just seemed dull.
Of course, the story of La Dame aux Camélias (which La traviata is based on) is a bit dull; although I must say that the novel by Alexandre Dumas (fils) is a far better rendition of the plot then what Verdi relates here. However, Verdi’s music is brilliant and I think it was done a disservice in this production. The costumes and sets also seemed far too somber and muddied for a depiction of the life of a courtesan in nineteenth-century Paris.
I remember Nicole Cabell favorably from I Capuleti e i Montecchi, but she didn’t impress me here as Violetta. Reviewers seemed particularly down on the male leads, but I thought Saimir Pirgu (Alfredo) and Vladmir Stoyanov (Germont) both had a lovely tone and sounded solid, as did La Maratonista. She was also impressed by the flamenco dancers in Act II. As was I, but I trust her more on all things Spanish. As we all know, I’m a bit biased when it comes to Spain.
Speaking of dancing, this production made me long to revisit a different version of La Dame aux Camélias, which I saw last fall in Paris: the ballet of the same name by John Neumeier. With gorgeous piano music by Frédéric Chopin, in this case played live on stage, this adaptation is absolutely stunning. Neumeier’s work keeps the original framing of the Dumas novel while weaving into the story the tale of the other fallen woman of French literature who Dumas references, Manon Lescaut. San Francisco Ballet needs to put on a production of this gem stat. It would certainly be a welcome change from their constant repetition of Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake. Of course, I’d also be down for Sylvia or Le Corsaire before seeing those again. Even Coppélia and The Sleeping Beauty come this way all too rarely. But, really, with its incredible roster of ballerinas, San Francisco Ballet would do a great job with the strong female roles in Neumeier’s piece.