Last night David and I saw an unimaginative production of Verdi's La Traviata at Chicago Lyric Opera. The stage director was Arin Arbus and the set designer was Riccardo Hernandez. Both should have checked out other productions of the opera before doing what they did to poor Verdi.
The set for most of the acts was a semi-circular wall. In act One it was helped by an elaborate chandelier and a long table filled with food and drink. In act Two it was helped by a false background that brought the stage to a more intimate size. Acts three and four were back to the semi-circle.
In acts one and three the very good but overly large Chicago Opera Chorus was stuffed on stage making it difficult for the principals to have any place to perform. I have mentioned this happening previously in productions in this theatre. Either get a smaller chorus or a bigger set.
In act four the huge space contained only Violetta's bed, a chair and a table with sillouettes shadowed against the back wall. As in Act two Violetta and Alfredo spent a lot of time on the floor. The father, the doctor and Annina stood across the back of the large expanse like the 'three trees': here a tree, there a tree, and there a tree.
The singing? Oh yes, the singing. It was all quite good. Albina Shagimuratova as Violetta received rave revues from the Chicago critics. It is a good sized voice and her downhill runs were very good but some of her singing left a bit to be desired. She was directed to sing the first half of 'Sempre Libera' standing behind the food table for some reason. She then was unable or unwilling to take the high E flat at the end of the aria. I checked on You tube. All the sopranos I listened to took the high note at the final cadence. There is even one recording you can listen to that has twenty minutes of high E flats from various sopranos.
Mario Rojas covered for Giorgio Berrugi, who was ailing, and did an excellent job with just one mis-entry in the last act. But he can be forgiven for that. Covers never get very much rehearsal time in any opera house. It is a very good voice. He is a slight man and was out-sized by nearly everyone else on the stage.
Zeljko Lucic sang the elder Germont with a rough, loud sound.
Go onto You Tube and listen to some other sopranos sing the aria. Anna Moffo in her prime was amazing. She studied with Eufemia Gianinni, the sister of my late friend, the incomparable Diva Dusolina Gianinni and of the composer Vittorrio Gianinni, who was also a friend.
I have seen a number of Traviatas. This was not my favorite.