Local “La Traviata” in Nice
Local “La Traviata” in Nice
Review by Torkil Baden
Photos: Dominique Jaussein and Torkil Baden
La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi (Venice 1853)
Text Francesco Maria Piave after Alexandre Dumas jr.
New production l’Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur
Oct 11th-17th 2015
NICE/FRANCE: The terrorist tragedy in Paris turned out to be a relevant backdrop for this Mediterranean Traviata. Due to national mourning one of the four showings in this Théâtre Municipal was cancelled by the mayor of Nice. The last showing on Tuesday was heavily guarded with police outside and a powerful Marseillaise inside before Verdi’s masterpiece.
The story about the young lovers is a relevant commentary to the latest terrible events. The story of the mighty forces of life and death is universal. In Paris the evil forces came out strongly as a message straight from hell. In the Nice Opera forgiveness and love prevails through death.
The star of a Traviata is the title role, this time with Rumanian Cristina Pasaroiu, a popular guest in Nice. She is an ideal Violetta with a sensitiveness equivalent to her enormous voice, glittering bright and with a sharp callas-que quality.
Italian tenor Giuseppe Varano is a world wide traveler as Alfredo. A soar throat belongs to the destiny of opera singers, so also for him on this occasion. But still he impressed with his fresh dedication to the lady of camelias.
The most impressive duet was between the unhappy Violetta and the merciless father, Vittorio Vitelli as a hipocritical playboy with a great voice. He has the right from God for his demands, a rather tragic argument in days when terrorists corrupt the same slogan.
There were expectations to a fresh look at the old drama in this new production. French director Pascale Chevroton is also trained in dance and has mainly experience with musicals and operettas, and she did deliver according to expectations.
Her program declaration (if I got her French right) was to show Violetta from several sides, an artist who plays a role, the conflict between theater and reality. This took off as a pantomime already during the ouverture. The drama literally takes place on the very stage of the Nice opera, a parallel to another Verdi opera, Un ballo in maschera. The loges and balconies of the precious Nice auditorium continue into the stage. Also we in the audience are spectators to Violetta as a performing artist, her collapse and finally walking alone into her death and glory.
The traditional identity of Violetta as a prostitute for the aristocracy is shifted towards an artist who wants to live an exciting life.
The other location is a summer house on the sandy beach, maybe outside the Nice opera house. There are smooth connections in the story telling and between the locations, in fact improving the rather abrupt transitions from the hands of Verdi and Piave.
A problem with this kind of modernized version is the geography when the words tell about the longing for Provence, and that is where we already are. But the ambiguity and sometimes unclear transitions between theater and reality is also a strength, giving a dreamlike depth to the story.
The strongest scenes are in the chamber music between the main characters. The party scenes are sometimes clumsy and sometimes strikingly original, convincingly portrayed by the mighty Choeur de l’Opéra de Nice. Beautiful video projections with flowers and ocean add to the visual qualities of the production.
The excellent musicians of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice present the richness and nuances of the score. Philippe Auguin, musical director of the Nice Opera, shows great artistic will and gives us delicacy and temperament.
On aspect of the she story is monogamy and marriage. What does mean today? France has a reputation for a family situation where the man gets children from his wife and love from his mistress. President Hollande is famous for travelling on his scooter between the both of them.
Maybe this opera basically is about honesty and identity. How can the father dare to sabotage Violetta’s destiny? Is she an inferior human being?
And when we leave the beautiful opera house and go out into the city, we are met by news about terror and refugees. What does dignity mean when hundred of thousands human beings drift through Europe?
The old drama in this fresh and spectacular setting helps us to reflect.
Violetta: Cristina Pasaroiu
Alfredo: Giuseppe Varano
Giorgio Germont: Vittorio Vitelli
Flora Bervoix: Ahlima Mhamdi
Musical director: Philippe Auguin
Direction and choreography Pascale-Sabine Chevroton
Design: Roy Spahn
Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice
Choeur de l’Opéra de Nice