* Notes *
Marta Domingo's "Jazz Age" production of La Traviata opened at San Francisco Opera last night. The performance marked the long-awaited return of Anna Netrebko to the War Memorial stage, as she was last here four years ago, singing Musetta in La Bohème. Netrebko did not disappoint as Violetta, her sound is rich and bright, and she has retained her good looks. Her voice has become quite full, and her volume was sometimes overwhelming. She and Charles Castronovo (Alfredo) made for an attractive pair, even though he did sound muted in comparison. Castronovo's tenor is warm and pretty, with very little strain. As Germont, Dwayne Croft did well considering he was recovering from a sinus infection. He rushed during his big aria in Act II, but the fineness of his voice did come through. The supporting cast was perfectly respectable, though perhaps less than arresting. The chorus produced a lovely sound, but were not exactly on beat with the orchestra near the end of Act I. There seemed to be a great deal of asynchrony in general, even for the opening of a new production. There were pleasing individual moments from the orchestra, however, it was not a particularly inspired performance overall.
The staging was artificial and incoherent. The sets for the first and last acts were elegant, very simple, but the Act II sets were overwrought. None of them made a good deal of sense taken together, and I was especially displeased by the return of the blinding disco ball from La Rondine. The costumes were lost, because of the colors used, they just did not read well. None of Netrebko's costumes were flattering, though the gowns were sumptuous with clean lines. Her outfit in Act II was strangely elvin, she looked like an extra from Lord of the Rings. The choreography was sloppy, the dancers were not together, and it was bizarre that they had an Arabic theme for both the Egyptian and the Spanish pieces. Worse yet were the movements of the singers, they looked stiff, like marionettes. There was no dramatic tension in the choreography whatsoever, as evidenced by the falls that Netrebko took both at the end of Acts II and III. Unfortunately, one cannot use a gag like that twice without being trite.
* Tattling *
There was very little talking, and no electronic noise besides some hearing aid squeals. The audience was very taken with Netrebko and seemed highly engaged and attentive.