We went to the COC Traviata this evening with a sense of foreboding, since Kenneth Winters wrote a thoroughly negative review in the Globe a few days ago. Unfortunately I have to agree with him. There’s really nothing whatsoever wrong with the music–the singers are all quite good, the orchestra plays very well etc.–but the 1999 production that the COC decided to revive this year is as close as I’ve ever seen to an act of on-stage butchery.
You’d think it would be really hard to mess up an opera like this–the story is relatively straightforward, lots of great music, etc., etc. But somehow the director has managed to transform Verdi’s music into something resembling nothing so much as a soundtrack for a bizarre attempt to make a PG-rated triple-X movie. It’s not as though I have an issue with sexuality in opera or even (where reasonably appropriate vis-a-vis the plot) for fairly explicit sexuality. But here we have reached the point where it’s become gratuitous and in several scenes has in effect become a substitute for an attempt to tell the story. You shouldn’t be able to walk away from an opera like La Traviata feeling no emotional connection with what’s going on onstage. But somehow they’ve accomplished this with this production.