Themes of class and patriarchy in the classic opera ‘La Traviata’ still resonate today

One fancifully sinister scene within the Canadian Opera Firm’s 2021-22 efficiency of ‘La Traviata’ encapsulates why we return to the opera time and time once more

Traviata (Courtesy of Chris Hutcheson/COC)

Traviata (Courtesy of Chris Hutcheson/COC)

Replace, Feb. 8, 2022: This story was up to date to replicate new efficiency dates

The Canadian Opera Firm returns to reside performances for the again half of the 2021-22 season with fan favourites that embrace Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata (April 23-Might 20) and The Magic Flute (Might 6-21). Madama Butterfly (Feb. 4-25) was meant to be reside however was as a substitute shifted to be a subscriber-exclusive on-line presentation. La Traviata is a passion-soaked tragedy set in 1850s Paris during which courtesan Violetta falls in love with nation gentleman Alfredo, solely to have her goals dashed by misjudgments and misogyny.

The second

In Act 2, Scene 2, Flora, Violetta’s fellow courtesan and supposed oldest pal, is internet hosting a dressing up celebration at her lavish salon, which is financed by her lover. Flora is surrounded by a troupe of employed entertainers in fancy gown. “They’re studying Flora’s palm and telling her that her lover goes to be untrue, and that may be a sort of joke to everyone,” says Arbus. “It’s satirizing love and constancy in a world that may be fairly brutal.” The tune is Noi Siamo Zingarelle (We’re Fairly Gypsies).

The temper

“Visually, there are not any different scenes that seem like this—purple on high of purple, with the purple wallpaper . . . The lights add redness to the purple costumes, which is partially attempting to create a sort of luxurious sense of hazard,” says Arbus. The scene provides a tonal and visible shift following a dramatic climax in Scene 1, the place Alfredo’s father convinces Violetta to finish issues together with his son in order to not carry dishonour to the household. Right here, “the music may be very playful, sort of frivolous and fanciful, however with one thing sinister beneath it,” says Arbus.

Costume sketches (Courtesy of Cait O’Connor)

Costume sketches (Courtesy of Cait O’Connor)

The costumes

The entertainers’ ragged costumes and exaggerated, macabre make-up evoke the damaging undercurrent of this seemingly glamorous world. As for the courtesans’ attire, “They’re big, initially, and heavy and scorching, however attractive,” says Arbus, crediting designer Cait O’Connor. “We needed to educate everybody learn how to transfer in them. There are 70 individuals on stage, and at instances they’re transferring shortly.” The ladies’s refrain members every had two wigs, a few of which had been too tall to suit by way of doorways, says COC wigs and make-up supervisor Sharon Ryman, who credit magnets for serving to with fast backstage wig and costume adjustments.

The that means

So why can we return to La Traviata again and again? The facility of nice artwork is its means to evoke emotion throughout centuries; Verdi homed in on themes which might be common to today. “La Traviata scandalized society when it was initially carried out,” says Arbus. “It’s a deeply drawn psychological portrait of a girl struggling to outlive in a moneyed, stratified patriarchy. And that, sadly, stays an necessary story.”

This text seems in print within the January 2022 situation of Maclean’s journal with the headline, “Love, intercourse and surtitles: Opera returns.” Subscribe to the month-to-month print journal here.

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