Photo crediT:Iko Freese

La Traviata

Reviewer's rating

Return to an age of slow living. Get comfortable in a casual corset and let your admirers watch as if it was a happening. What we see is a lady – what we perceive is prejudice. What are today’s conceptions of a woman who strayed from the norms and conventions of her society?

After 150 years, Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece continues its power of fascination on stage. Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux camélias functions as the original source for the libretto to Verdi’s original piece. Reflecting upon a relationship within the lower social class in Paris of the early 19th century, it projects mismatching ideas of morality and economics onto the young and beautiful battona Violetta Valéry. Neglecting the reason to produce a work of art the high society could get involved with, Verdi’s blazing headlights shine upon the decadence of an unprivileged, but dignified sex-worker’s romance.

When music becomes part of the mix, we find ourselves getting more entangled in our voyeuristic points of view. The arias are not only carried by the music, but also elaborated by the ongoing sound that lingers in the salon until someone breaks it with an enthusiastic bravo! or brava! that echoes back to the platform where the singers’ faces reveal the gratitude of being honored. The interpreter of Verdi’s Violetta, Natalya Pavlova, could also perfectly perform her part all by herself, detached from any musical support. Alone, half seated, almost lying down, her singing directs the show almost like a conductor of her very own story. The motif of the waltz reveals the uncommon insight to the Italian society of its time. There are numerous reasons to consider it an inappropriate production, but especially one that convinces the composer to show it: pleasure.

Pleasure is also the power the characters are driven by – young Spanish toreros take a break to get a better view of the good-time girls of Paris; Alfredo Germont, who falls in love with the most precious Violetta and the latter, that is unsettled by a heart that starts beating for a reason. The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings only has one enemy, called reason. To preserve his good name for his daughter’s marriage, the older Germont must dissolve the relation between his son and the courtesan. There is no remedy for the lovers. The choir appeals to the conscience of a hurt lover and eventually, his father. But there is still no cure for the broken rose. United at her final breath, all is forgiven, but not forgotten.

Nicola Raab’s production of an evergreen work at opera houses converts outdated ideas of a prostitute finding love into the current economy of erotic entertainment. Without problematizing how sex sells centuries after introducing La Traviata for the first time, it is evident that we are still confronted with a man-made business when it becomes personal. Still, instead of resentment, Raab’s Violetta embodies the conscience of a whole community. In spite of the role society shaped her by, she appears as the strongest and most trustworthy character of all. In the end, her authenticity reveals the power of love – a love for her people.

When the curtains fall, it is impossible to say who is more affected by the past three hours. An enormous noise of applause, standing ovations, a blushing Pavlova. What a relief that this lady dies – only to be reborn for several performances to come. Buon divertimento!