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(La Traviata - Met Opera House, Dezembro de 2010)
Esta encenação de La Traviata foi estreada em Salzburgo, em 2005. Anna Netrebko interpretou uma Violetta absolutamente extraordinária, capaz de rivalizar com a da Callas. Onde a da grega era sofrida e vítima, a da Russa foi lasciva e lânguida.
À época em que tomei contacto com a Violetta de Netrebko, ensandeci. Contudo, a minha loucura passageira não invadiu a minha capacidade critica! Como referi, conheço dezenas de Violetta, sendo que duas sobressaem: a da Callas e a de Netrebko. Sim, eu sei, a da Cotrubas era muito lírica, como a da Gheorghiu; a da Sutherland (a primeira) era pirotécnica, como a da Caballé, etc. Mas, reitero: há duas imensas!
Peter Gelb, que limpa a poeira e o bafio do seu Met, decidiu – e bem – destronar a encenação de Zeffirelli. Por uma única vez, devo saltar em defesa do insuportável italiano... Assisti, em Abril de 2010, no Met, à sua proposta e não me desagradou, apesar da megalomania e hiper-realismo costumeiros. Já a sua Tosca merecia ter sido destruída, logo após a primeira récita!
Enfim, Gelb recuperou a mise-en-scène de Salzburgo (de Willy Decker) e eis o resultado...
«Even die-hard fans of the director Franco Zeffirelli’s productions for the Metropolitan Opera have to concede that his 1998 staging of Verdi’s “Traviata” was terrible. With its opulently garish sets and knee-jerk realism, the production dwarfed the cast, no matter what stars were singing. So the time has long since come for something different. And the intriguing production by the German director Willy Decker that the Met introduced on New Year’s Eve could not be more different.
The entire story is played within the confines of a tall, curved grayish-white wall, as if the action were taking place in an arena under clinically bright lights. And during crucial scenes groups of choristers lean over the wall like voyeurs, watching the deteriorating relationship between the dying, defiant courtesan Violetta and her smitten lover Alfredo, here played by the glamorous Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya and the sweet-voiced American tenor Matthew Polenzani.
The costumes are modern. Violetta appears at the party in the opening scene in a short blazing red dress, and all the guests, male and female choristers alike, wear black tuxedos, making the crowd look androgynous and threatening. This “Traviata,” which originated at theSalzburg Festival in 2005 and was the hottest ticket of that summer, lives on as a popular DVD starring Anna Netrebkoand Rolando Villazón.
No doubt many opera buffs will dismiss it as just another high-concept Eurotrash outrage, though there was surprisingly little booing when Mr. Decker and the production team, in their Met debuts, took curtain calls on Friday night. This was in contrast to the opening night of last season, when the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, replaced the popular Zeffirelli “Tosca” with Luc Bondy’s gratuitously modern and lame staging.
In some scenes Mr. Decker’s reconceptions of “La Traviata” are as heavy-handed as the melodramatic clichés he abhors in traditional productions. And though the look here is bare and timelessly modern, the symbolism is forced, especially the ever-present giant clock to indicate the passage of time and the ticking-away of the terminally ill Violetta’s life.
Still, this is an involving and theatrically daring production that belongs at the Met. And unlike the suffocating Zeffirelli staging it replaces, it is a showcase for courageous singers. Mr. Decker clearly worked with his leads here to develop vulnerable, revealing portrayals.
With her long blond hair, slender physique and square-jawed face, the lovely Ms. Poplavskaya looks like a young Meryl Streep and exudes charisma. In traditional productions Violetta’s popularity with the Parisian set can give a false impression. She flouts societal codes, and Ms. Poplavskaya’s portrayal restores the character’s danger. There is something seedy about the opening party scene, when the guests lift up the red leather couch on which Violetta blithely strides, having kicked off her high heels.
Like many sopranos who have taken on this demanding role Ms. Poplavskaya, so splendid as Elisabeth in the Met’s recent production of Verdi’s “Don Carlo,” was less comfortable vocally in the coloratura flights of Act I than in the lyrical effusions and dramatic outbursts of the later scenes. She handled the runs of “Sempre libera” ably but was at her best earlier in this great solo scene, when, curled into a fetal position on the couch, she sang the rueful, aching phrases of “Ah, fors’è lui.”
From Act II through Act III Mr. Decker’s staging moves without a break. This forward momentum makes Violetta’s downfall and death dramatically inexorable but places enormous vocal burdens on Ms. Poplavskaya. In her farewell to dreams of a happy life with Alfredo, “Addio, del passato,” she sounded tired and took what seemed extra breaths where she could find them in the phrases. Still, her voice had a cool, earthy beauty; her sound was penetrating and vibrant. Even when fatigued, she floated some beautiful high pianissimo notes.
Mr. Polenzani, a fine lyric tenor, was an uncommonly elegant Alfredo. His sound, though not large, carried well, and the integrity and supple phrasing of his singing were special. That he looked so youthful and wholesome gave a startling charge to the moments in which Alfredo can barely contain his passion for Violetta. It was clear what keeps this reckless relationship going.
And after Alfredo’s father, Germont (the Polish baritone Andrzej Dobber, who had an imposing presence but sang with a leathery sound), persuades Violetta to give up Alfredo for the sake of the Germont family honor, the father-son confrontation was viscerally staged. Germont literally slapped sense into his son, which sent Mr. Polenzani to the floor, seething with humiliation and anger.
Sometimes Mr. Decker goes too far in exposing what he sees as the subtext of the opera. For example, Act II, as written, opens in a country house near Paris, where Alfredo and Violetta have been living for three months. Fresh from a hunt, Alfredo sings about how joyless life is when Violetta is away, then expresses his ardor in the aria “De’ miei bollenti spiriti.”
In this staging Alfredo is not alone but romantically entwined with Violetta, as they roll off a couch (one of five), she in a slip, he in his underwear, both loosely wearing flower-patterned bathrobes that match the fabric draped over the couches. The clock is also draped to show that for a while, at least, time has stopped for the lovers.
Even as Alfredo sings about how he misses Violetta, we see them playing a lover’s game of hide and seek among the couches. And during his aria, as Alfredo recalls the day Violetta declared her faithfulness and love, when Mr. Polenzani’s voice sent this romantic phrase soaring, Ms. Poplavskaya pretended to be singing along with sweeping arm gestures and fake-operatic intensity.
Is Violetta mocking Alfredo for his overheated feelings? What Mr. Decker means to come through, I think, is that Alfredo and Violetta are almost afraid to acknowledge the implications of their emotions, since she is clearly ill. So she mimics him to defuse his sincerity.
You really have to go with the concept to interpret the staging touch this way. I mostly did and found it fascinating. Still, some in the audience laughed as Ms. Poplavskaya imitated her lover. This is a big price to pay to lend a traditionally romantic Verdi aria a modern psychological twist.
Though the conductor Gianandrea Noseda led a performance that balanced passion with refinement, there were many moments of inexact coordination with the singers. The problem may have been that Mr. Decker was asking for the operatic equivalent of Method acting from his cast, and that the singers were too absorbed in their performances to pay close attention to the conductor.
This production is part of Mr. Gelb’s campaign to make the Met more theatrically innovative. He deserves credit for taking risks with the bread-and-butter staples of the repertory. The question is whether the Decker “Traviata” is the kind of reconceived production that will last for seasons into the future. Perhaps the Met will become a house where productions are rotated more often, which would be an interesting departure, though an expensive one.»