It gives me no pleasure at all to report that it was extremely moving for all the wrong reasons. The giant clock symbolising time running out for Violetta, even when she tries to pin back the hands, is a striking metaphor. The faceless chorus women included , suited and booted, paw and hound her until a new, younger model takes her place when their interest wanes. His staging throws up a number of questions: Who is the mysterious, omnipresent figure by the clock?
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After missing opening night because of a cold, Dessay was back Tuesday to take over the role of Violetta in the radically updated production by Willy Decker. From her first entrance during the prelude, looking exhausted and barely able to walk in her red dress and matching high heels, Dessay captured the essence of a party girl for whom the party is all but over. Pulling herself together with the arrival of guests, she exuded a forced gaiety and let out a whoop that was more desperate than exuberant as she was carried aloft by a chorus of male admirers. Throughout the evening, Dessay provided what this brilliant production so urgently requires — the star power of a singing actress whose magnetic personality and physical agility can involve us deeply in Violetta's tragic struggle for happiness. There were numerous touches that made her portrayal special — the delicate coloring she gave to the word "misterioso" as she pondered whether her new admirer, Alfredo, might be the love of her life; the despairing anger with which she spit out the words "E tardi!
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He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in , conducting performances of La traviata starring Angela Gheorghiu. Highly nuanced, tightly controlled and crisp, Steven White asked everything from orchestra members and they were flawless. He led them out of serene beauty into disturbing dissonance and even to the terrifying point of musical madness without ever losing control.
Willy Decker wasn't the first man to try and gain a better perspective of the courtesan Violetta by examining what lay beneath the iconic red dress. But I have to wonder whether the German director's psychological undressing of the heroine in the present Met production has uncovered anything more revealing than his predecessors. Violetta, the Camille of Dumas's play from which Francesco Paive's libretto formed the genesis of Verdi's La Traviata , leads a colorful and glamorous lifestyle that the audience longs to experience—if only vicariously.