LA TRAVIATA by Giuseppe Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave, directed by Dmitri Bertman (Canadian Opera Company). At the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). To May 26. $20-$275. 416-363-8231. Rating: NN Rating: NN
I'm all for innovative opera pro- ductions, especially when they shed new light on a work and are supported by the music and text.
Director Dmitri Bertman 's 1999 production of La Traviata is so stupid, it should be called La Travesty. Bravo to the handful of Torontonians who booed the production at last Friday's opening.
Bertman and his designer, Igor Nezhny , have set the 1853 piece in the most unconvincing S/M leather bar I've ever seen (and I've seen quite a few). At the same time, though, they've included a softer, more romantic motif, replete with stately wigs, gowns and architecture.
The point, I suppose, is that heroine Violetta is a party girl who - at heart - wants to settle down. (Think Sex And The City's Samantha, whom she actually resembles in this production, but with Charlotte's ethics).
There's the germ of an idea here, but little logic in Bertman's execution. The two eras - hardcore contemporary and lavish period - continually clash, and the conceit collapses in the second act when we hear Francesco Maria Piave 's libretto, all about 19th-century social mores around weddings. If you're going to update a staging, think about adapting the text (at least the translation), too.
Daniele Callegari gets lots of vivid colours from the COC orchestra, even if his tempi are a little on the slow side. The singers, though, are a mixed bunch - at least the cast I saw perform (there's an alternate cast for the leads). As Violetta, Inva Mula 's got a small, silvery lyric soprano that's not as agile as it should be in some passages, while her opposite number, Alfredo ( James Valenti ), cuts a fantastic figure onstage but lacks vocal grace. As Germont, Alfredo's disapproving dad, Alan Opie has a gruff dramatic voice that sounds the same no matter what he's singing - not a good thing.
Bertman's awkward staging feels as misguided as the sets. But at least the leads don't have to trudge through the opera like Annina ( Betty Allison ), Violetta's maid, who's dressed up like the Grim Reaper and, ironically, makes us all hope her boss's death comes sooner than it does.