Sunday, April 15, 2012

La Traviata Highlights

My highlight of an afternoon at the opera was sitting beside a six year old grand daughter who was seeing her first opera.

She wiggled, she twisted, she squirmed, she hung over the arm rest of her chair, she ate her candy, she drank her slurpee, but that might have been more of a comment about the neon green cast on her fractured leg, than a comment on the opera.

We had parked her wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs of the movie theatre, lining it up beside the walker that was there from an older patron who was in one of the front seats. We had chosen to see the screen from the back of the theatre, so Leo carried her high and gave her the end seat of our row.

Naomi can’t read English yet. I would whisper some of the information to her from the subtitles. She watched quietly and listened, those large brown eyes glued on the screen and her hair falling down her shoulders. In the list of top three favorite moments of a day, this would be one of mine.

As well, I loved the opera. I had misgivings about its modern setting for I like the opulent costuming and elegant staging of more traditional operas. But the modern production by Willy Decker has so many avaunt-guarde twists, that a person might just forget to listen to the music and get caught up in choreography, the costuming and the lighting design.

“I don’t know if it was by accident or design,” said Leo, “but did you see the visuals of the hands of the clock repeated in the hands of the chorus as they leaned over the top of the set, all of those arms reaching down, and then the shadows of those arms being magnified, some of the shadows being cast half way down the wall.”

I agreed with Leo. That visual was a stunning one.

And how about that simple red dress, the hem of which rolled and floated as Violetta danced at lavish parties. The only other costuming for her was a simple egg-shell coloured silk slip, a metaphor for the simplicity of her real life, when her party mask was off. And having that red dress swinging from the hips of a male figure during the bull-fighting sequence – what a fantastic way to press questions of gender and role on the audience. And then to have the dress on the next traviata figure and have her carried away on the clock to the next party? – how did Farmer, Gussman, Toelstede and Decker collaborate to make all of that work with dance, light, set and costume design.

Even 10 year old Xavier got the idea that Dr. Grenvil, was a metaphor, not only for life, but more importantly, death, as he walked slowly along the stage and sat at foot of the clock, or even as he embraced Violetta, about to die.

I can’t give too much praise to a production that lets a child understand what is going on, and also embeds such complicated themes for adults to think about in the same scenes.

Were any of the rest of you at the opera.

I know it was Zachary’s baptism yesterday, so that event trumped the Met for them yesterday. But I do want to say something about the playful floral decorations – picked up on the couch covers, the sleeping robes and the ceiling – having Violetta almost disappear into them as she was singing about her 3 months of happiness in the country. I loved the chorus – all dressed the same, and functioning as part guests, mid-night revelers, even as a bull. Magnificent.

Here’s hoping I can see the La Traviata Encore.

Arta
One showing was not enough.

Arta

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