Theater review: 'La Traviata' -- 3 Stars
How appropriate for the Metropolitan Opera to premiere Willy Decker’s new production of “La Traviata,” which is dominated by a giant ticking clock and a Father Time figure, on New Year’s Eve.
But rather than count down to midnight, they monitor the minutes until the heroine’s inevitable death.
This marks the demise of another lavish Franco Zeffirelli production. When the Met retired Zeffirelli’s “Tosca” in favor of Luc Bondy’s controversial version last season, operagoers booed at curtain call. But on Friday night, the crowd was mostly supportive of Decker’s minimalistic and intriguing take on Verdi’s tragic romance.
“La Traviata” observes the once wild courtesan Violetta, who is already ill when she meets Alfredo, a longtime admirer who offers a rare opportunity at achieving true love. But their ideal country lifestyle comes to a halt when Alfredo’s father demands that they separate and Alfredo misinterprets the reason she leaves him. By the time father and son apologize to Violetta, it is too late.
The spare production design, which is dominated by a bare stage against a curved white wall, is often striking. And Violetta, clad in a hot red dress and stiletto heels, competes against a demanding chorus of men and women dressed in identical business suits. Floral imagery covers the stage when Violetta and Alfredo are together but then suddenly fades to gray.
Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya delivers a thoroughly dynamic performance as Violetta, starting out with confident sex appeal and then handling the character’s death scene with grace and emotional intensity. She is nicely complemented by Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo and Andrzej Dobber as his father.
If you go: “La Traviata” is at the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center Plaza, metoperafamily.org, 212-362-6000. Through Jan. 29.