Monday, March 31, 2008

The Opera - Part IV - "La Traviata"

The last, but, most certainly not the least, of the operas that I attended in the Smithsonian Madness at the Met program was "La Traviata", produced and with the sets designed by none other than Franco Zeffirelli.

Of all the operas that I wanted a picture of, I wanted "Traviata" the most, because of Zeffirelli's gorgeous sets, but since this is not a new production at the Met, I couldn't find pictures anywhere. I searched and searched, but no picture. In lieu if that, I chose the picture of the Grand Tier Restaurant in the Metropolitan Opera House, where we ate dinner the evening we saw "Traviata". The food and the service were quite good. I had an excellent salmon dish, one of the best I've ever had. I'm picky about my salmon. And it's so convenient to go unhurriedly to the seats afterwards.

There are those who don't like Zeffirelli's opera sets, because, in their opinion, they overwhelm the whole production, but I loved them. Yes, they're de trop, but so is "La Traviata". The two were a good fit. The ballroom and the country house were feasts for the eyes. We saw some of the pieces of the set up close on our backstage tour, those that could be pushed to the side. The audience, including me, gasped when the curtain opened for the first time.

"Traviata" is my favorite opera of all, and it was the first that I ever heard. When I was in high school, a friend had an extra ticket, and she begged me to go. I said no, but she continued to ask, until I gave in, and we went to hear the opera. I thank her to this day for practically forcing me to go, because I fell in love. The music is so beautiful. The story is a simple, tragic love story, the libretto taken from La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils.

To my mind, there is no way that the sets could take away from the beautiful music, the lovely coloratura voice of Ruth Ann Swenson as Violetta, the courtesan, the tenor, Matthew Polenzani, as Alfredo, her aristocratic lover, and the wonderful baritone voice of Thomas Hammons, singing Germont, Alfredo's father. The orchestra, under the direction of Marco Armiliato, did its part to make the evening an absolute joy for me.

Before hearing "Peter Grimes" the first evening, we dined at SanDomenico. The food and service there were quite good, too. The soup course consisted of a purée of fresh borlotti bean soup with unshelled spelt. It tasted very much like New Orleans style red beans, but it was, of course, more liquid. I told that to the chef, and he didn't appear too thrilled. I guess he did not realize what a high compliment that was. My main course was fillet of Chilean sea bass, which was delicious. It was the whitest fish I have ever seen, almost glowing in the semi-darkness.

This is the last of the opera posts, and I do not want a second career as a music critic. Writing about opera is hard work for me, because the great gaps in my knowledge make me fearful of making a terrible gaffe. For whoever may be interested, I will gather all four posts in a group and post them on the sidebar as a tribute to my short life as an opera critic.

Production and Set Design - Franco Zeffirelli
Conductor - Marco Armiliato
Violetta - Ruth Ann Swenson
Flora - Leann Sandel-Pantaleo
Germont - Thomas Hammons
Baron Douphol - John Hancock (How about that?)
Dr. Grenvil - LeRoy Lehr
Gastone - Eduardo Valdes
Alfredo - Matthew Polenzani


  1. I don't know much about opera, but thanks for sharing this! (It is one of my woefully deficient areas.)

  2. (It is one of my woefully deficient areas.)

    Diane, that makes two of us.

  3. Dat Chef wuz just embarrassed that someone found him/her out, iz all.

    Mimi, darlin, they'z Yankees; ya gotz ta 'member that.

  4. Johnieb. he wasn't even a Yankee. He was a foreigner. He should have known New Orleans red beans anyway. They're world renowned.

  5. I am not a huge opera fan, but my two favorites are Madame Butterfly (I know, the story line helps to define 'soap opera') and La Traviata. The sets and the music are simply a feast for all the senses.

    Lucky, lucy you!

  6. Elizabeth, soap opera is right for the stories of Traviata and La Bohème. They were four lovely nights that I'll never forget.

    Si. Mi chiamano Mimi. (singing)

  7. Thanks so much for taking us with you on your grand NY opera adventure!

  8. Paul, my descriptive powers are poor, but my enthusiasm is great. I had a grand time.

  9. Ruth Ann Swenson is some fine singer!!!

    And Elizabeth, all opera is soapy! They got whores, they got villains, they got sex, and they usually have gorgeous clothes. They is soapy!

  10. Susan, she was a wonderful Violetta, in every way.

    Folks in our group who know a whole lot more about opera than I do, including the lecturer, all agreed that we were fortunate to enjoy four such outstanding productions in a row.

  11. Thanks for sharing - we enjoy the Saturday night opera relays from the Met on radio 3 on the way home from Mass - it was La Boheme last night. I have sung the toy seller in Act 2 in an amateur production and love the music.

  12. John, thank you. I love "La Bohème". How lovely that you sang in it. "Si. Mi chiamano Mimi," you know.

  13. some good mages thanks for that. I agree grandmere mimi.


Anonymous commenters, please sign a name, any name, to distinguish one anonymous commenter from another. Thank you.