Last night, the Metropolitan Opera put on its season premiere of Verdi’s La Traviata, starring Diana Damrau in the Willy Decker production. This was the third opening night for the Decker production at the Met. Last night featured Diana Damrau’s role debut as Violetta Valéry, along with Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu’s role debut as Alfredo at the Metropolitan Opera. Placido Domingo, the one and only, also performed last night in the role of Giorgio Germont.
I attended the opening night last night along with my father, while my mother played in the orchestra under Maestro Yannick Nézét-Seguin. It was overall a lovely evening.
Damrau fits the role of Violetta like a glove. Her bubbly attitude, along with her intense acting skills, made her Violetta a performance to remember. The Willy Decker production requires her to do many challenging things while she simultaneously has to sing, including standing on couches, falling down, getting up, being carried, lying down, and the obvious- having money thrown at her. Her singing by itself was fantastic. Her “Sempre Libera” reminded me of a bubbly, fizzy glass of champagne, while her “Addio, del passato” reminded me of a sad, wilted flower. Her performance last night was a master class for bringing emotion into one’s singing, while also taking on the physical demands of incredible acting.
Photo: Diana Damrau as Violetta in Act I of La Traviata
Saimir Pirgu’s first performance was a complete success! He may have had “debut-jitters” for his Alfredo, but if he did, they were not noticeable. His voice sounds well rounded, and like there may be more voice down there somewhere for the future. Alfredo was his first Verdi role, as the only other parts he has sung were composed by Mozart, Rossini, and Puccini. His voice sounds like one that could grow and slowly feel more comfortable with heavier Verdi roles. Remember- He’s only 32.
Placido Domingo’s return as Germont was a show-stopper for the Met audience. When Domingo made his first entrance in Violetta’s house in the French countryside, Maestro Nézét-Seguin had to stop due to the applause. Hearing Germont sung by a tenor was a bit odd, in that the voices of Germont and Alfredo were not distinguished enough from each other to comprehend their father-son relationship. Domingo’s singing was satisfactory, but his appearance was highly appreciated and welcomed with open arms by the Met audience.
The orchestra and chorus were able to keep up with the fast tempi of Maestro Nézét-Seguin. As a former member of the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus, I sang under the Maestro’s stick in the premiere of the Met’s current production of Carmen in 2009 and 2010. He made the “Taratata”s of the children’s chorus part very difficult to sing without sounding like blurry rubbish. He, the orchestra, and the chorus all contributed to a musically sound performance.
Photo: Act I of Carmen in 2009, conducted by Maestro Nézét-Seguin
The Willy Decker production of La Traviata has drawn much controversy from opera audiences. For singers, it is an attraction because of the attention that they can draw to themselves. The production’s stage, for the most part, is bare or with a few pieces of furniture, while the singers are left out in the open. What soprano would not want to wear that loud red dress and grasp the audience’s attention away from the set?
There are two parts of the production that I especially liked: Death and time. It is very clever to have Dr. Grenvil out on the stage for the duration of the opera. He is constantly present, wearing black, and acts as a sign of death for Violetta. This is very similar to the angels wearing black that appear in the Met’s current production of Salome, that most likely represent death. The presence of the clock is also intriguing, in that it shows that Violetta is running out of time for Alfredo and for her life. Like the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, Violetta attempts to stop it in despair. Death and time were both incredibly innovative and creative components of the production.
The performance of La Traviata itself made the evening spectacular, but that was not all. I had the pleasure of attending another “Opera Rocks” Twitter party at the intermission with fellow tweeters OperaTeen, donna_elvira, and parterre. It was wonderful to see all of you and talk opera. After my leaving the Met Children’s Chorus and after my last performance of Parsifal last Friday night, it was nice to finally get out and talk about opera with other people. Thank you for putting the cherry on top of a lovely evening at the opera.