Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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All This Useless Beauty

November 07, 2008

Anja Harteros as Violetta
Photo: Marty Sohl/Met 2008

Regular readers may wonder why I even bothered attending one of this season’s performances of Verdi's La Traviata at The Metropolitan Opera while in New York. It is certainly not my kind of thing (though one of my favorite operas) and represents that odd combination of a significant number of pre-Gelb era productions in the house which simultaneously contain amazingly great and amazingly horrid elements at the same time.

The reason I went is simple. I love Anja Harteros—and have—since I first saw her in Handel’s Alcina in a brilliant Christof Loy production two years back. This big starring role in New York was too good for me to pass up while in town. She did not disappoint. In fact, I think that possibly outside of Gheorghiu she may be the best Violetta around today. She is a bit of an Act II Violetta as opposed to Gheorghiu’s supremacy in Act I. (I will admit that my favorite Act III performer is still Fleming despite her matronly manner in this role.) But Harteros succeeded on nearly all counts with strong acting that was neither matronly or histrionic to boot. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Alfredo, Massimo Giordano. I’ll admit that I was less irritated by him than others in the audience given the number of boos at his final curtain call, but he did spend most of his time gnashing around the stage in a manner that seemed particularly uninvolved with others in the cast.

Granted, Giordano, Harteros and the excellent Germont, Zeljko Lucic were weighted down with the immensely unpleasant and inert Zeffirelli production. Even the vocal glories of Harteros and Lucic failed to make this geriatric monstrosity take flight. I imagine the Sisyphean task of trying to inject passion into a Zeffirelli production is not unlike trying to imagine your grandmother’s current sex life – it may be possible, but you aren’t going to go there. Zeffirelli seemed even unable to please the real grandmas in the audience around me tonight, given that at least the naps of at least two of them commenced before the end of the overture. As irritating as their snoring was over the next three hours, it was blissful relief in comparison to the humming that followed each clapping-associated re-awakening. But this beloved staging lives on and nothing seems to stand in its way - not even the house curtain malfunction that ended up delaying the Act II ball scene by about 10 minutes after an aborted first attempt. But to each his own. And times are hard, sir, and the Met’s got tickets to sell even if on occasion they are the proverbial worse pies in London.

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You are so funny, you have no idea of what are you talking about. I was there too, and Mr Giordano in my opinion sung VERY WELL, and yes there was only ONE man who booed him, and may be it was you!
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