Ensemble

Italy's Last 'Traviata' (For a While)

GIUSEPPE PENNISI reports on on Verdi's opera in Rieti

 

COVID-19 is galloping in Italy as in several other European countries. Public health systems are under stress. On 25 October 2020, the Italian Government issued an Order in Council with several measures, including the lockdown of theatres, concert halls and cinema houses. Therefore, the staging of La Traviata on 27 October 2020 in the splendid Vespasiano Theatre in Rieti - a Provincial capital North of Rome - may be remembered as the last for a while. Realistically, although - as Oscar Wilde liked to say - it is difficult to make predictions when they concern the future - while the medical doctors of Milan are calling for a total lockdown of Lombardy, it is difficult to conjecture the reopening of theatres, concert halls and cinemas in the coming months.

In Rieti, the small but interesting Reate Festival takes place. I have written about it previously because, intelligently, it co-produces with other institutions (such as Accademia di Santa Cecilia and Accademica Filarmonica Romana). This Traviata, staged on the eve of the closing of the theatres, is co-produced by the Festival with the Teatro dell'Opera Giocosa in Savona and the Teatro Coccia in Novara, with the support of the Alberto Sordi Foundation for young people. In addition, Michele Olcese's effective and suggestive scenes are the result of the collaboration with the Arena di Verona. The sumptuous costumes by Giada Masi and the lighting by Andrea Tocchio are effective.

A scene from Act I of Verdi's 'La Traviata' in Rieti
A scene from Act I of Verdi's La Traviata in Rieti

The production, which I hope will be seen, in due course, in Savona, Novara and - I hope - Rome too, has two very strong points:

- The stage direction by Renata Scotto, Queen of the Metropolitan Opera when I lived in the United States. Few people know that, in 1995, at New York City Opera, she directed a production of La Traviata, cast live on television, which won the prestigious Emmy Award for best live television event.

- The performance of Rosa Feola, who ten years ago had her debut at the Vespasian Theatre in Rieti and today is considered one of the greatest 'absolute sopranos'.

These are two artists whose simplicity and human touch is equal to their quality and international fame.

Rosa Feola as Violetta in Act II of Verdi's 'La Traviata' in Rieti
Rosa Feola as Violetta in Act II of Verdi's La Traviata in Rieti

I could not travel to Rieti because I am in lockdown but modern communication means such a recording made possible to glimpse at the performance, especially its musical aspects. As is known to musicologists, La Traviata would require two sopranos: a lyrical soprano until the middle of the second act and from Amami Alfredo onwards a dramatic one. This is vocality found only in the rare 'absolute sopranos' as was Renata Scotto (born 1934) and now Rosa Feola.

The youthful momentum of Leonardo Sancho-Rosales as Alfredo and the vocal and human presence of Sergio Vitale in a Germont-father are appreciable and promising. Rosa Feola and Sergio Vitale are husband and wife in real life.

Rosa Feola as Violetta and Sergio Vitale as Germont in Act II of Verdi's 'La Traviata' in Rieti
Rosa Feola as Violetta and Sergio Vitale as Germont in Act II of Verdi's La Traviata in Rieti

The conducting by Giovanni Di Stefano, head of the Savona Symphony Orchestra, was flexible and attentive; the choir of the Teatro dell'Opera Giocosa in Savona was conducted by Gianluca Aschieri.

Copyright © 31 October 2020 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy

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GIUSEPPE VERDI

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