|... soprano Dessay and director Sevadier in rehearsal ...|
Kelvin and I had the whole Cineplex Theatre to ourselves today at the 12:55 pm.
That is the moment when the documentary about a new production of La Traviata began.
Within five minutes two separate parties of one person each joined us in the movie house – and that was it for the audience.
The price was right: $9.50.
The Los Angeles Times prints an interview with Natalie Dessay about the two month filming of the rehearsals. I knew I was hooked into the movie at the first few shots – a chandelier swinging outside in the wind; some leaves now magnified because they were along the left side of the screen, the seat at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché in Aix en Provence; the stage tools, brushes and brooms, hanging on a wall. I watched the rehearsal of the chorus; saw the director Jean-Francois Sivadier working with Natalie Dessay, giving her ideas of how to block her stage moves. Louis Langree was fine tuning the London Symphony Orchestra. He said of one pianissimo – it must be a forte-pianissimo. Quiet but intense – forte in its quietude, passionate in emotion. Then when they got it right we could feel the thrill of those eight bars as we had never felt them before.
The filming crew shot 100 hours of film. The editors of the film cut the footage back to less than two hours. The plot line was maintained – the film begins as the curtain goes up and the last shot was of Dessay practising her final collapse on stage – over and over – Dessay goes down at the same instant as the conductor brings down his baton and the curtain falls. The three of them in tandem: the orchestra, Dessay and the curtain. Over and over she practised in front of our eyes, a multi-part fall: knees, hips, then shoulders, the final notes of the music in the background. I knew the film had to end but I wanted it to go on and on.
We saw the tutoring over and over as Sivadier coached her during a phrase where she imagined her lover was present. Sivadier was giving her ideas on how to trace out the form of her lover’s body for the audience, how to cup his imaginary face in her hands, how to show us the left side of his body, then the right.
In 10 words or less, Kelvin calls our day a lesson in “how to listen and watch at the opera”. A wonderful Saturday.