I don't think it's there anymore but there was this little pizza place on maybe Columbus back when I first went to the Met called Traviata Pizza, which was very funny to think about. I am going to open a chain of theme restaurants: Enchilada Desdichada, maybe, or The Fallen Pot Roast.
Little known fact about Traviata: if the stars are lined up right, the scene at Flora's hoe-down plus one Met intermission add up to exactly as much time as you need to get to PJ O'Rourke's, which is not what that place is called but I'm blanking, get your food, not even wolf it down so very wolfishly, pay your check, and get back to your seat. I'm not kidding. And really who likes that scene anyway, especially in the Zeff production. As our new favorite "get back in free"-pass-passer-outer guy said to us on our way out, "the cows get a little old, right?" Oh also hey great new Halloween costume idea inspired by aforemisnamed restaurant: douchebag. It's more about the attitude than the clothes.
So that's my current favorite thing about Traviata, an opera I have overlistened but will one day love again. No, I jest. My current favorite thing about it is Anja Harteros! I had heard and read all manner of praise for her, and am happy to find it was not exaggerated. It's mainly about the voice, unless it isn't--this is the kind of singing that doesn't make you feel like keeping separate scorecards. But, and the more accomplished listeners will correct me if I'm wrong here, it seems to be a real Verdi voice in the way Fleming isn't, and Hong isn't, and so on, no matter what these other singers' strengths.
Technically I find it a little hard to track what's going on. The top of the role is ...well it never isn't there, and if she has time to settle into a C, it tends to be a beaut. And the fioratura's diligently executed. Something better I can say, though, is that Harteros is the first singer I've heard live who convinced me that "Ah, fors'e lui" is the interesting part of Act I. Which it is, no? It's like how you might never have realized how much more to be savored is "Ah, si, ben mio" than the big bad pira if you'd never heard Bjorling.
The interesting converse effect was that the emotive integrity of her singing popped "amami, Alfredo" back into context, for me at least; not that it didn't hit hard, but it felt like part of what was going on instead of one in a series of trials, hole #4 on the Verdian miniature golf course, the one with the windmill. This scene was aided, I am surprised but happy to add, by Zeljko Lucic, vastly better used here than in Macbeth or Gioconda. I'm not sure if it's about temperament or tessitura, but his Germont is kind of dead on, with a kind of vocal gravity I haven't felt from Croft or Hampson, singers who do more but don't seem to me really to unpack G-Daddy's baggage. Did that sound like a sexual euphemism of some sort? Well never mind.
Giordano: a mixed bag with a positive enough overall impact that one can't really go through with the "Minimo Giordano" joke, about which one was in any case ambivalent. There's stuff in his Alfredo that doesn't work, like I have to remain on the fence about the pretty but sometime almost inaudible crooning he strews about the role, most notably in "Parigi, o cara." It suggests an inability to find a healthy mix between that and his reasonably beefy non-croon, but it may be nothing more than a suggestion. He needs a haircut something awful, but otherwise cuts a fine figure onstage, animated and responsive. So yeah, for the most part a success. High note fanciers (I cast no shade, I'm just sayin') will want to know that there was neither an e-flat in S.L. nor a C in Alfredo's cadenza. You win some, you lose some, you have your brother steal some for you if he happens to be governor of Florida.
Next up: Damnation of Faust. October was a slow month. Also I scribbled some stuff about Podles so I guess I'll post that.