Saturday, September 14, 2013

More on Becoming Traviata

 ...  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.


1 comment:

  1. I wanted to say one more thing about 'Becoming Traviata' today. I stayed afterwards to talke with one of the other two theatre patrons there. I knew I had met her before. She is the one who told me that she couldn't figure out why people were leaving the theatre before the orchestra had finished the last notes of the music they were playing as the people exited. I liked that idea -- enjoy every last note -- and I have stayed since until the theatre is dark, and usually all of the patrons have gone. What is the rush to get home?

    She also told me that she goes to the performances and to the encores. Why not, she asks. Now I agree with her.

    I asked her if she went to the National Theatre HD performances. She said not yet. But she turned to the poster on the wall about "The Last of the Proms 2013", said she had seen it on Sept 7th since her grand daughter was in London and going to see it at the same time -- live. Then she reported that of all of the opera performances she has ever seen, "The Last of the Proms 2013" topped them all for her.

    I was in Sicamous Sept 7th and there was no showing there. Their schedule is so abbreviated. I am going to make an effort to find out where "The Last of the Proms 2014" is in next season. I like to know which of the shows other theatre patrons feel are the must-sees.