There’s No Explaining (Bad) Taste

A review of the Met’s new production of La Traviata by Daniel Gelernter contained this statement: “As an artwork, it [La Traviata] is less valuable than the Alexandre Dumas novel on which it is based: Camille is a first-rate romance. La Traviata is more histrionic than subtle, but it manages a number of superb moments, especially in the second and third acts. Besides which, Verdi had a gift for writing catchy tunes — almost everyone recognizes the Act I song “Libiamo ne’lieti calici” (“Let’s drink from the joyful cups”), if only from some ad for pizza or tomato sauce.”

Presumably, Mr Gelernter gets a free ticket to the Met and gets paid for his review, though I wonder why. He doesn’t seem to like opera. Of course, he’s entitled to his opinion – no matter how bizarre. But his review is another validation of Verdi’s dictum that the only critic that counts is the audience. There’s a reason beyond comfort food why La Traviata is the most performed opera in the world. My take, misguided as it may be, on the opera is that it is a sublime masterpiece while Dumas fils’ novel La Dame aux Camélias is an appealing but mediocre retread of the Abbé Prévost’s Manon Lescaut.

Marcel Proust said that in La Traviata Verdi had lifted La Dame aux Camélias into the realm of artTake that Mr Gelernter and mix it with your pizza and tomato sauce.