Photo by Arielle Doneson
“Heartfelt, touching…” – Boston Classical Review
“Matanovic particularly shined with her vulnerability and honesty … BLO truly delivered.” – The South Shore Critic
“Weston Hurt is a revelation” – South End News
Music by Giuseppe Verdi | Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Sung in Italian with projected English translation
Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, not seen at BLO in nearly a decade, returns in a glorious new production. The tale of Violetta, a worldly courtesan with all the men of Paris at her feet, takes a wrenching turn when she risks all for a chance at enduring love. Anya Matanovic makes her Boston Lyric Opera debut in the role opposite Weston Hurt as the father who will stop at nothing to protect his family’s honor. His son Alfredo loses and regains Violetta, leading to one of the greatest scenes of reconciliation in all of opera.
Friday, October 10, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 17, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 19, 2014 at 3:00 p.m.
Julia Noulin-Mérat, Set Designer
Jacob A. Climer*, Costume Designer
Mike Inwood*, Lighting Designer
Jason Allen, Wigs and Makeup Designer
ANYA MATANOVIC* as Violetta
MICHAEL WADE LEE* as Alfredo Germont
WESTON HURT as Giorgio Germont
with Jon Jurgens, Chelsea Basler,
David Kravitz, David Cushing,
David Wadden, Rachel Hauge and Omar Najmi
*Boston Lyric Opera debut
This section serves as introduction to our production of La Traviata and includes some basic information, as well as a synopsis, written by BLO’s Artistic Advisor John Conklin. For further research and critical commentary by BLO’s Dramaturg Magda Romanska see Insights. For recommended books and recordings, see Digging Deeper.
There was a shift at the end of the 19th century with the rise of the leisure class. A wife at home, a non-working wife, became a new trophy object (something for a man to spend his money on to show his social and economic status). It used to be a courtesan (she was the status symbol), but now the leisurely wife took up that role. So the function of the courtesan as a marker of social and economic position was no longer needed. Thus, she became a prostitute.
Magda Romanska, Ph.D., BLO Dramaturg
La Traviata ( variously translated as “The Fallen Woman”, “The Woman Gone Astray “, ” The Strayed One”) had its premiere at La Fenice in Venice on the March 6, 1853. It had a libretto by Francisco Maria Piave ( who collaborated with Verdi on Rigoletto, Macbeth, and La Forza del Destino among others) and was based of the 1852 play La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias) by Alexander Dumas fils. Verdi and Piave had wanted the opera to have a contemporary setting – as did the novel and the play – but nervous opera management insisted on a period setting: the 1700’s – “in the era of Richelieu.” Initially the opera was not successful, but Verdi made some revisions and subsequent productions proved the enduring worth of this most popular of operas. The London premiere was on the May 24, 1856 ( the church attempted an injunction…the Queen was not amused ). The American premiere was at the Academy of Music in New York City on December 3, 1856.
Part One, Scene One
A salon in the courtesan Violetta Valéry’s house in Paris, sometime at the end of the 19th century.
A party is in progress. Violetta entertains her newest client, the Baron Douphol, amid a glittering ensemble of the rich and noble and their women of the moment. On the surface all is lightness, elegance, and worldly sophistication. Into this brilliant demimondaine world, a somewhat naive young man, Alfredo Germont, is introduced. It seems that he has become obsessed with Violetta, but until now, only from afar. Urged on by an intrigued Violetta, he toasts her with an ardent evocation of the intoxication of true love. She answers in praise of the necessary pursuit of pleasure, however fleeting. Violetta is suddenly overcome with faintness. Left alone with Alfredo, he begs her to abandon the life that is killing her and declares his passion, his undying love for her that is both “a torment and a delight.” She is drawn to him and moved almost in spite of herself, and agrees to see him. Alfredo and the guests leave and – in a striking pair of intense soliloquies – she muses first on the strange and powerful new feelings that flood her (“to truly love and be truly loved in return”) and her almost hysterical rejection of them as “madness…empty delirium.” As she asserts her desire to keep to her present life of freedom and the pursuit of pleasure, the voice of Alfredo outside calls to her again with his passionate declaration of love.
Part One, Scene Two
Three months later.
Alfredo’s passionate voice has won out over Violetta’s inner turmoil. She has abandoned her superficially glamorous life in Paris and they have escaped to a “pastoral” retreat in a house outside Paris. But the situation is not as free or idyllic as it appears. Alfredo is appalled to discover that their new life is being paid for by money from the sale of Violetta’s possessions, gained, one assumes, in the course of her former profession. He rushes to Paris to settle matters. Violetta’s past also surfaces as she receives an invitation from Flora for an event that night. A visitor is announced: Alfredo’s father. The “duel” that ensues between Giorgio and Violetta is musically varied with extraordinary skill, and the psychological intricacy of the shifting relationship is compelling. Germont begins by accusing her of ruining his son, but Violetta proudly counters and Germont is impressed with her bearing and inherent nobility. Nevertheless he persists and asks her to make a sacrifice for the sake of the family – break off the liaison that is jeopardizing Alfredo’s sister’s marriage. Violetta refuses – she tells Germont that she is dying and that Alfredo is all she has. Cruelly dismissing all her hopes and dreams of happiness as transient delusions, he extracts from her a promise to leave Alfredo forever. Germont is deeply affected by her grief and courage. When Alfredo returns, she bids him a passionate farewell and then sends him a letter saying that she is returning to Paris and Baron Douphol. His father’s attempts to comfort him do nothing to calm Alfredo’s anger at what he sees as her monstrous betrayal.
Part Two, Scene One
A room in Flora’s house. That evening.
A second party – but in contrast to Violetta’s earlier, the mood and ambiance is darker, more blatantly erotic, and more overtly “decadent.” Flora and her guests are surprised by the news that Violetta and Alfredo have split up. He appears apparently unconcerned and soon joins the gambling. Violetta herself enters on the arm of the Baron. Alfredo continues to win at cards, vowing that he will take his winnings and return to the country with Violetta. The Baron, incensed, joins him at the card table – and loses. An incipient challenge and duel hang in the air but supper is announced and everyone goes into the adjoining room. Violetta tries to get Alfredo to leave before the Douphol can act but she can only accomplish this by proclaiming her “love” for the Baron. Alfredo, furious, calls back the party and humiliates Violetta by throwing his winnings at her feet, calling it the payment for services rendered. His father appears and berates his son. In an ensemble all parties expansively express their various feelings of anger (the Baron indeed challenges Alfredo to a duel), outrage, sympathy, guilt and remorse while Violetta’s vocal line soars above them all proclaiming her unquenchable and undying love.
Part Two, Scene Two
A room in Violetta’s house. February.
Violetta is dying. She senses this while Dr. Grenville confides to her maid Annina that she has only hours to live. She reads a letter from Alfredo’s father in which he tells her that there was a duel, the Baron was wounded and that he has confessed to his son the truth about her sacrifice. They are both are on their way to her. But it is “Too late” (“E tarde”) she cries in anguish. The ironically celebratory sounds of a street festival are heard outside while she, in yet another gesture of spiritual richness, instructs Annina to give one half of their pitiful cache of money to the “poor”. Alfredo rushes in begging forgiveness and, at least for a few ecstatic moments, they are reunited. She will recover her health, they will get married (respectably …in a church), they will flee Paris forever, grow old together. But “E tarde” She collapses. Alfredo calls for the Doctor. Violetta cries desperately, “I want to live again.” A last spasm of vitality courses through her (“I feel reborn”) but it is but for a minute. “She is dead” (“E spenta”).
ANYA MATANOVIC Soprano
Recent Highlights: Wanda, The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, Santa Fe Opera; Musetta, La Boheme, New Israeli Opera; Micaëla, Carmen, Glimmerglass Festival; Marzelline, Fidelio, Seattle Opera
Upcoming: Stella, A Streetcar Named Desire, Kentucky Opera
WESTON HURT Baritone
BLO: Sharpless, Madama Butterfly
Recent Highlights: Frank, Die Tote Stadt, The Dallas Opera, Odyssey Opera; Rigoletto, Rigoletto, PORT Opera; Germont, La Traviata, Seattle Opera, Atlanta Opera
Upcoming: Renato, Un Ballo in Maschera, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra; Carmina Burana, Pacific Northwest Ballet
MICHAEL WADE LEE Tenor
Recent Highlights: Stiffelio, Stiffelio, Theater Krefeld/Mönchengladbach; Nemorino, L’Elisir D’Amore, Glyndebourne; The Duke, Rigoletto, Pittsburgh Opera
Upcoming: Calaf, Turandot, Theater Essen; Don José, Carmen, Theater Osnabrück; Radamès, Aida, Estonia Opera
CHELSEA BASLER Soprano
BLO: Soloist, Boston Landmarks Orchestra concert 2014; Margret Borden, Lizzie Borden; Countess Ceprano, Rigoletto; Papagena, The Magic Flute
Recent Highlights: Josephine, HMS Pinafore, Liu, Turandot, Opera Sarasota
Upcoming: Isolt, the Fair, The Love Potion, Glascha, Kátya Kabanová, Zerlina, Don Giovanni, Boston Lyric Opera; Soloist, Exultate Jubilate, Atlantic Symphony Orchestra; Recital at the National Opera Center, New York
CHAS RADER-SHIEBER Stage Director
Recent Highlights: Giasone, Pinchgut Opera; Orlando, Hobart Baroque; Abduction from the Seraglio, Utah Opera; Giulio Cesare, Wolf Trap Opera
Upcoming: Alcina, Indiana University; Die Fledermaus, Portland Opera; Ariadne auf Naxos, Opera Philadelphia
JULIA NOULIN-MÉRAT Set Designer
Recent Highlights: Bluebeard’s Castle, Opera Omaha; Madama Butterfly, Opera New Jersey, El Paso Opera; La Descente d’Orphée, Gotham Chamber Opera; The Telephone, Opera Boston; Gallo, Director of Design & Production, Guerilla Opera; Sumeida’s Song, Boston Opera Collaborative; Transformations, Boston Conservatory; The Light Princess, A.R.T.; Guiding Light (CBS); Inside the Actors Studio: Jim Carrey (Bravo); Principal Designer at Noulin-Mérat Studio; Resident Set Designer, Attic Theatre and Exit Pursued By a Bear
Upcoming: The Barber of Seville, LoftOpera; The Rake’s Progress, Boston Conservatory; Sumeida’s Song, Pittsburgh Opera; L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Opera Omaha Artists
JACOB A. CLIMER Costume Designer
Recent Highlights: Les Misérables, Dallas Theater Center; Abduction from the Seraglio, Utah Opera; Rinaldo, Portland Opera; Arguendo, Public Theatre (ERS); Tokio Confidential, Atlantic Stage 2
The Lady of the Camellias
by Alexander Dumas fils
translated by Liesl Schillinger
introduction by Julie Kavanagh
Penguin Books 2013
“One of the greatest love stories of the world” – Henry James. The immortal story and character was based on Dumas’ real life lover, Marie Duplessis.
AND THE PLAY FROM THE SOURCE
Camille and Other Plays
edited and introduced by Stephen Stanton
Hill and Wang 1990
Dumas’ play derived from his novel has drawn actresses eager to love, party, suffer, and die in the grand manner – Lillian Gish, Eleonora Duse, Tallulah Bankhead, Sarah Bernhardt, and of course, supremely, Greta Garbo in the 1936 film adaptation.
THE SOURCE OF THE SOURCE
The Girl Who Loved Camellias: The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis
by Julie Kavanagh
Alfred A. Knopf New York 2013
“I was enthralled by the wholly unexpected life of Marie Duplessis and entirely captivated by the cinematic realism of this wonderful book’s evocation of her world.” – Nicholas Hytner
“….this book is for anyone with an interest in opera, celebrity, sex, and money” – Richard Eyre (and who isn’t?)
The Operas of Verdi: Volume 2
by Julian Budden
Oxford University Press 1979
Budden is always interesting and useful in his detailed and evocative information on the background of the opera and his probing analysis of the music, text, and action.
The Real Traviata: The Life of Giuseppina Strepponi
by Gaia Servadio
Hodder and Stoughton 1994
A fascinating biography of the famous and powerful singer whose liaison with Verdi (she was perceived at that point as a “fallen woman” – a traviata with three illegitimate children) produced a mighty scandal. Eventually they married, but the bitter social controversy over their relationship certainly influenced the emotional depths Verdi explored in La Traviata.
VIOLETTA AND HER WORLD
Violetta and Her Sisters – The Lady of the Camellias: Responses to the Myth
edited by Nicholas John
Faber & Faber 1994
A wide-ranging series of intriguing essays – historical, cultural, literary, and musical. The titles of the various sections (“The Woman in the City,” “The Making of a Myth,” “Love and Art for Sale,” and “Reincarnations”) perhaps suggest its scope. Contributors range from Baudelaire to Dr. Ruth.
THE WORLDS OF FIN-DE-SIECLE PARIS
Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals
by Cornelia Otis Skinner
Houghton Mifflin Company 1962
An anecdotal, breezy evocation of Paris in the 1890s with witty portraits of the sometimes preposterous aristocrats, elegant flaneurs, brilliant writers, and spectacular courtesans who are certain to be found at Violetta’s and Flora’s soirees.
Swann in Love
Jeremy Irons as Swann and Ornella Muti as Odette de Crecy in Volker Schlöndorff’s lavishly detailed film of Proust’s novel about the intense and almost manic obsessions of a rich, intellectual Parisian with probably the most famous courtesan in literature.
FIRST-HAND REPORTS FROM THE FRONT
Memoirs of a Courtesan of Nineteenth-Century Paris
by Celeste Mogador
translated and introduced by Monique Fleury Nagem
University of Nebraska Press 2001
Grand Horizontal: The Erotic Memoirs of a Passionate Lady
by Cora Pearl
edited by William Blatchford
Stein and Day 1983
The World of Proust, as seen by Paul Nadar
edited by Anne-Marie Bernard
MIT Press 2002
Sumptuous portrait gallery
THE RECORDED TRAVIATA
As might be anticipated, La Traviata‘s recorded tradition is extensive. Sutherland/Pavarotti, Gheorghiu/Lopardo/Solti, Caballe/Bergonzi, Sills/Gedda, Moffo/Tucker, Scotto/Raimondi, Albanese/Tucker have all left their mark. Your choice.
The versions (studio and live) of Maria Callas’ portrayal of Violetta are a cottage industry all in itself (and a source of violent controversy as to which is the best). I’m reluctant to enter the fray, but I’ll meekly recommend the 1955 live-from-La Scala version.
But I have no hesitation in extolling the Carlos Kleiber version on D G. with Ileana Cotrubaş, Plácido Domingo, and Sherrill Milnes. Cotrubaş is delicate and infinitely touching (her first line in the opera seems already poignantly tinged with a foreshadowing of her death), but it is Kleiber’s conducting that wins here. It is blazingly dramatic, filled with intelligence and deep musicianship, energy and passion, full of revelatory details, and yet imbued with a sweeping overall arc.
THE FILMED TRAVIATA
starring Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, and Lionel Barrymore
directed by George Cukor
The ultimate embodiment of Marie/Camille/Marguerite/Violetta. Garbo’s performance is uniquely subtle, almost understated, but when she arches her head back and bears her throat to Armand’s kisses, never has sensuality and sexuality, united with spiritual grandeur, been more magnificently expressed.
In The Wings
Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera
By Magda Romanska, Ph.D., Boston Lyric Opera Dramaturg
In the first volume of his sprawling 19th-century novel, In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust chronicles the tale of Charles Swann, an upper-class member of French society, and his obsessive love for Odette de Crécy, a popular and attractive Parisian courtesan. …more »
We are just a few days away from Opening Night of our 2014/15 Season opener, La Traviata! The excitement is building as the set takes its place on stage, the performers get into costume, and we see the magic of opera coming to life before our very eyes. Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at BLO’s final preparations for the week with some inside information from our very own Set Designer…more »
by Magda Romanska, Ph.D., BLO Dramaturg
The 19th-century affair with death is no great news to anyone even remotely familiar with its art or literature. It was a period of morbid aesthetics and a peculiar and apparently inexplicable fascination with deadly eroticism. The poetic and artistic imagination of the time…more »
by Magda Romanska, Ph.D., BLO Dramaturg
La Traviata, a melodrama in three acts, was set to a libretto by Verdi’s longtime collaborator Francesco Maria Piave and is based on Alexandre Dumas fils’ play, La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias). The play itself was adapted from Dumas’ novel of the same title, which was…more »
Magda Romanska, BLO Dramaturg and Associate Professor at Emerson College, talks to Prof. David Rosen about Verdi’s La Traviata. Prof. Rosen is a world-renowned musicologist, a leading expert on Verdi…more »
All Photos: Eric Antoniou for Boston Lyric Opera © 2014