The Canadian Opera Company manages to remain unfailingly interesting with each production they mount. It would never have occurred to me however, that anyone could tamper enough with as beautiful an opera as La Traviata that I'd feel more life drained out of me by the end than poor Violetta as she succumbs.
This diminishment was accomplished in spite of principals that were for once young, beautiful and believable as lovers, a wonderfully voiced international cast and an orchestra that consistently soars. At odds with me and many others judging from reactions afterward, was the ridiculous set design, costumes and staging.
I can handle missed lighting cues, surtitles not appearing on time above the stage and other technical gaffes but to open with an S&M party filled with leather clad guests is a little jarring. While providing excellent eye candy, the distractions from the drama had only just begun. The set had two banks of swivel doors that alternately provided awkward entrances and egresses and reflections of blinding light back into the audience. Another piece of the set consisted of a large mattress for our lovers to roll around and stand on while another set piece seemed to have been designed more classically and to solely highlight class distinctions.
The Russians are to blame for this mess: set designer Igor Nezhy, costume designer Tatiana Tulubieva and director Dmitri Bertman. I never thought I'd long for a return to the wonderful days of the cold war but this really got me thinking. When the production originally debuted with the company back in 1999, it was met with derision and things haven't changed. My only saving is that I've only sat through it once and will make efforts to not do so again.
Poor Joe Green must have been rolling over in his grave.