The Met brought back Willy Decker’s staging of Verdi’s masterpiece which was televised in the HD series in May of 2012. My gripes about this production are unchanged and can be read here. The opera’s entire premise is based on a 19th century view of the world, which is why moving it to the modern period is such a dumb idea. My complaints can be summarized by the tenor’s zipping up his fly during the cabaletta to his second act aria. Accordingly I’ll limit my comments to the performers. First, though, why does the Met keep bringing back productions they’ve already broadcast when they have interesting shows that have yet to be seen? I Puritani with Camarena and William Tell, which hasn’t been presented by the Met in more than 80 years, should have made it to the HD series. This show was number 1001 by the company, tying Traviata with Carmen for third place on the Met’s list of performances by frequency; there are 11 more to come this season. La Boheme and Aida are the first two.

More than any other of his opera’s, Verdi’s tragic fallen woman opera is centered around its title character. La Traviata literally means the woman who has been led astray. The demands, both musical and dramatic, on the soprano who plays this part are terrific. The first act requires a lyric and then coloratura soprano. The rest of the opera increasingly needs a spinto. Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva has all the voice needed for Verdi’s taxing role. Her sound was rich and effortless. She provided all the nuance and pathos required for Verdi’s “best” opera. When asked later in life, but before his final masterpieces, what his best opera was, he said as a musician it was Rigoletto. But from the viewpoint of the audience it was Traviata. Yoncheva’s acting was as compelling as her singing. At age 35 she’s young enough to look the part. The only criticism, a common one in opera, is that it’s hard for a super zoftig singer to look like she’s about to succumb to consumption. Nevertheless, as the Met had a compelling Violetta the performance was a success. Anything more was a bonus.

But there was more. Michael Fabiano was brilliant in the usually boring part of Alfredo. The young American tenor has a beautiful lyric tenor which is secure throughout its range. His high notes (there aren’t many for the tenor in this opera) were focused and had ping. He sounded much better than he did when he received the 2014 Richard Tucker Award which was telecast on PBS. Now he sounds like a real comer. He should get a better hairpiece, though. The one he had on looked like he picked it up at a 9th Ave pawnshop on the way to work.

Time has been kind to baritone Thomas Hampson’s looks. The 61 year old singer is still a very handsome man. His voice. however, is almost completely gone. His sound is raspy and muffled. Jason Stearns who sang the Baron produced a richer tone. The two should have switched roles.

Nicola Luisotti led the Met’s orchestra in a competent, but not inspiring reading of Verdi’s moving score. The first act prelude got lost in the superfluous onstage business which coincided with it. The last act prelude was better. The cords of doom which mark Violetta’s approaching death were tepid. Matthew Diamond’s video direction was perfect, meaning it was invisible.

In summary, a performance of Verdi’s poignant opera made notable because of the outstanding portrayal of its two ill fated lovers by Yoncheva and Fabiano.
Metropolitan Opera House
March 11, 2017 Matinee

HD Transmision

LA TRAVIATA {1001}
Giuseppe Verdi–Francesco Maria Piave

Violetta…………………Sonya Yoncheva
Alfredo………………….Michael Fabiano
Germont………………….Thomas Hampson
Flora……………………Rebecca Jo Loeb
Gastone………………….Scott Scully
Baron Douphol…………….Jason Stearns
Marquis D’Obigny………….Jeff Mattsey
Dr. Grenvil………………James Courtney
Annina…………………..Jane Bunnell
Giuseppe…………………Juhwan Lee
Messenger………………..Brandon Mayberry
Guest…………………..Andrew Robinson
Gentleman………………..Paul Corona

Conductor………………..Nicola Luisotti

Production……………….Willy Decker
Designer…………………Wolfgang Gussmann
Associate Costume Designer…Susana Mendoza
Lighting Designer…………Hans Toelstede
Choreographer…………….Athol Farmer
TV Director………….Matthew Diamond