30 May 2012

Night at the Opera

Inside the Metropolitan Opera House. Photo: Michele.

Earlier this month I went to the opera. I had never seen a live performance by the Metropolitan Opera before and was excited. 

I saw Verdi’s La Traviata. Based on the play La dame aux Camelias by Alexander Dumas, La Traviata is the tale of Violetta Valèry, a courtesan dying of consumption. Although pursued by many men she gives her heart to Alfredo Germont who toasts to true love. After a few blissful months together in the country, Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, arrives and convinces Violetta to leave his son so he may preserve his family honour. Later while attending a ball with her new lover she runs into Alfredo who treats her horribly. He is chastised by his father, who tells him the real reason why Violetta left. Rushing to her side, the two lovers are reunited briefly before Violetta dies.

I picked La Traviata for one reason—Dmitri Hvorostovsky. A baritone who I first saw perform many years ago at the San Francisco Symphony, he has always been a favourite of mine. Not only is his voice incredible he’s also very handsome. He played the part of Giorgio Germont and did not disappoint. When he sang “Di Provenza il mar,” a song intended to remind Alfredo of his family, Hvorostovsky received some of the strongest applause of the evening. He also hammed it up during the curtain call, which was fun to see.

Natalie Dessay, who was suppose to sing the role of Violetta was sick that evening so the understudy, Hei-Kyung Hong, took her place (something that seems to be a trend with my theatre going this month). I quite enjoyed her performance. And Matthew Polenzani did an admirable job as Alfredo.

The set was modern and sparse, decorated with a large clock counting down Violetta’s days. I thought it worked well as a backdrop for the chorus dressed in androgynous black suits and Violetta in a shocking red dress.

And the venue. The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center is impressive, especially its chandeliers (nicknamed Sputniks) that dramatically glide up to the ceiling before curtain. My seat was all the way up in the family circle (nosebleeds) where the acoustics are amazing but, unfortunately, if you want to see the faces of the performers you’re out of luck (where are those opera glasses when you need them?). 

I so enjoyed my visit, I’ve already checked out the new season schedule for my next trip to the opera.

For more information on the Metropolitan Opera, visit their website here.

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