Tonight I got to return to the Metropolitan Opera for the second time in a week. Tonight’s performance was Verdi’s La Traviata.
Nothing much needs to be said other than that Anja Harteros was amazing. Her role anchored the opera, and the major problem was that her brilliant singing nearly always outshone the leading tenor, whose name I cannot remember and will not bother to look up.
Zeljko Lucic played a believable father who sang with decorum and impeccable interpretation, his rich voice finely balancing Harteros’ in their Act II duets. And the final treat was the Baron, sung by John Hancock, whose chocolate baritone voice soared even during group recitatives. This one performance was enough to inspire me to follow these three’s careers.
The exuberant party scene in Act II, complete with stremers, confetti, costumes, Gypsies, and a matador with five bulls.
I got to attend this opera tonight with friends Adam, Sarah, and Wendy. Adam and Sarah had tickets on the side of the Dress Circle (A little booth with a door and individual chairs), while my complimentary tickets were in the orchestra section. We rotated seats during the intermissions, so we all got to enjoy the opera from different perspectives.
This was a wonderful performance by leading soprano Pat Racette. I also especially liked the Consul Sharpless, played by an expressive Dwayne Croft, but the leading tenor was an understudy and not too memorable. The Anthony Minghella production was spare, modern, and at times exquisite. This production opened the 2006-2007 season at the Met. The film director created great effects with a wall of color at the back of the stage, a sloping ebony stage, brilliant costumes, and an expansive mirror hung at a 45-degree angle above the stage, cleverly allowing the opera-goer to simutaneously see the action from the front and above.
This is evidently the most-performed opera in America. Why? The American theme? The music is vintage Puccini, but in my opinion the score doesn’t have nearly as many memorable arias as any Mozart opera or even some Puccini operas.
Butterfly’s son is three years old in the opera. Often the part is played by a six-year old child, but Minghella opted to go with a bunraku puppet with three black-veiled operators. Their skill was apparent, but the whole effect was a bit creepy and made it difficult to emotionally connect with the puppet, er, boy.
My last comment is that I was startled when I heard echoes of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables in the humming chorus. Certainly more than coincidental, this musical similarity plays a similar function in both shows. But let’s be clear: Madama Butterfly was written first.
Butterfly’s opening scene. This dance was reflected magically in the mirror above the stage.
The wedding party ascending at the back of the sloping stage.