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Philologically Correctin Music and Vision 23 Dicembre 2012

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Philologically Correct A sexless 'Traviata' opens San Carlo's new season in Naples, experienced by GIUSEPPE PENNISI On 5 December 2012 in Naples, the San Carlo Theatre inaugurated its 2012-2013 opera and ballet season with a gala evening. The theatre also has a concert season and operates, in addition to the splendid almost 2000 seat San Carlo opera house, the small Teatro di Corte within the Royal Palace. Over the last few years the foundation running both theatres has been plagued by serious financial problems. Now, it is on its way to recovery and has a new management, a new chief conductor and a new artistic director. These are the premises to return to the past glory as one of the main musical centers in Italy and in Europe. For the 2012-13 season (bicentenary of the birth of both Verdi and Wagner), as with many major Italian opera houses, the San Carlo chose a well known Verdi work: La Traviata. Indeed, only four of the twelve major houses have opted for a Wagner musikdrama. It is a co-production with the Petruzzelli opera house in Bari. From the media viewpoint, the main attraction was the staging, entrusted to the well known Italian/Turkish movie director Ferzan Özpetek; stage sets were the work of Dante Ferretti (who has won several Academy Awards) and costumes were by Alessandro Lai. The action was moved forward by a few decades and placed in a rather decadent Istanbul. This did not square well with a libretto where Paris is central to the text. Also, the staging is elegant, but quite sexless: Alfredo declares his love for Violetta whilst looking at the audience (and not at the young woman) and the lovers barely touch each other during the three acts of the opera. The audience did not seem to mind and the staging team received accolades. I saw the performance at a charity preview on 2 December.
Carmen Di Giannattasio as Violetta and members of the chorus in Act II of Verdi's 'La traviata' at Teatro di San Carlo. Photo © 2012 Luciano Romano. Click on the image for higher resolution Most likely, the performance success was due to its excellent musical aspects. The young (thirty-three-year-old) conductor Michele Mariotti has been recently acclaimed in New York for his handling of Carmen. This is the third time I have listened to live performances of La Traviata under his baton. Each time, he showed different nuances of the score. This time, he conducted a rarely heard full unabridged version, including sections often cut either to give a faster pace to the action or to make life easier for the singers; eg the second act 'cabalettas' for tenor and baritone, and a few bars of the taxing soprano aria Addio del Passato in the third act. Also, he was very careful in the coloratura aria Sempre Libera in the first act to replace the sovracuto (never written by Verdi but made part of the tradition by a spirited 'prima donna') with the high notes as conceived by the composer. More significantly, such a philologically correct interpretation of the score was fully appreciated by the orchestra which, fully in-tune with Mariotti, gave the right musical tint to the tragic plot.
Carmen Di Giannattasio as Violetta and Saimir Pirgu as Alfredo in Act II of 'La traviata'. Photo © 2012 Luciano Romano. Click on the image for higher resolution The singing cast was very good. Carmen Di Giannattasio switches easily from 'coloratura' to 'mezza voce' (as in Dite alla Giovine) to dramatic high notes (as in Amani, Alfredo). Saimur Pirgu is Alfredo with a clear timbre, a generous acute and perfect phrasing, and Vladimir Stoyanov is a moving Germont, especially in the grueling Di Provenza il mare, il suol. Copyright © 23 December 2012 Giuseppe Pennisi, Rome, Italy GIUSEPPE VERDI LA TRAVIATA NAPLES ITALY PARIS ISTANBUL << M&V home Concert reviews Handel's 'Messiah' >>

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