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Opéra Bastille - from 20 May to 29 June 2016
3h05 with 2 intervals
Language : Italian
In few words:
"Farewell sweet, happy dreams of the past, the roses of my cheeks have already faded."
- La Traviata, Act III, scene 1
Verdi was looking for “una donna di prima forza” to bring his Traviata to life. Augusta Albertini, for example, had she been available. Or Rosina Penco, whose beauty, expressiveness and stage presence predestined her for the title role. However, detained in Rome, she too was unable to accept the offer. Who else then? In his villa in Sant'Agata, the composer no longer concealed his doubts as to the success of his new opera – a fear compounded by the fact that the Teatro La Fenice in Venice had little better to offer him than Fanny Salvini-Donatelli. Although no longer “in the flower of her youth” and even less “an ideal beauty,” the singer kindled enthusiasm thanks to her one redeeming feature: her voice. However, that would not suffice to avoid the fiasco Verdi foresaw.
Violetta requires not one voice, but a miraculous combination of three: firstly, a soprano coloratura, virtuoso and brilliant; in addition, a voice sufficiently vibrant and lyrical to convey the burden of the sacrifice imposed by her lover's father, and lastly, one possessing a sense of the heart-rending drama amid the dying flames of the consumptive heroine’s last instants. The tragic actress turned tightrope walker sways unsteadily on a flimsy cord stretched to snapping point. Having sung Lucia di Lammermoor at the Bastille, Sonya Yoncheva has already demonstrated all these qualities. Now, for the first time in Paris, she is portraying Verdi’s fallen woman.
Opera in three acts (1853)
After Alexandre Dumas Fils, La Dame aux camélias
Violetta ValerySonya Yoncheva1 > 7 june
Violetta ValeryMaria Agresta23 and 26 may, 11, 14, 17, 29 june
Violetta ValeryIrina Lungu29 may, 20 june
Flora BervoixAntoinette Dennefeld
Alfredo GermontBryan Hymel20 may> 1,4,7,11,14,17 et 29 june
Alfredo GermontFrancesco Demuro20 et 26 june
Giorgio GermontŽeljko Lučić20, 23, 26, 29 mai, 7, 11 juin
Giorgio GermontSimone Piazzola1, 4, 14, 26,29 juin
Giorgio GermontPlácido Domingo17, 20 juin
Il barone DoupholFabio Previati
Il marchese d'ObignyBoris Grappe
Dottore GrenvilLuc Bertin-Hugault
La Traviata - Giuseppe Verdi
Olympia in La Traviata
La Traviata’s Chorus
© Eléna Bauer - Opéra national de Paris
Olympia in La Traviata
A production remembered
Benoît Jacquot confessed in 2014 “When I was asked to direct La Traviata, which is above all a literary and cinematic work, I immediately and instinctively thought of Manet,”. Just like Verdi’s heroine, the subject of Manet’s painting Olympia, is a “fallen woman”, a woman of loose morals. The work created a scandal when first shown because of the way it is lit from the front, as if the spectator were illuminating the painting himself to reveal the subject’s flesh in all its triumphant beauty. The director of the opera paid homage to the painter by hanging Olympia majestically over Violetta’s bed in the first act. A copy or the original? Rather than attempting to spirit a masterpiece out of the Musée d’Orsay, one of the Paris Opera painters took up the challenge and reproduced Manet’s celebrated portrait of a courtesan.
Thierry Desserprit is a scenery painter and set decorator at the Paris Opera. He was trained at a school of decorative painting where he learned the techniques of trompe-l'œil and patinas, in short, all the techniques used in creating the illusion of reality in a décor. He gradually specialised in theatre décor, in which a particular technique known as “Italian painting” is practised. This consists in painting on large canvasses stretched out on the floor, standing and walking on them as you work. Over the years he went from workshop to workshop, of which there were many in Paris at the time, and gained considerable experience, then joined the Painting Workshop at Opera Bastille about twenty years ago.
“In the Painting Workshop, some people work more on
“environments”, that is, three dimensional sets. I work essentially on canvas backdrops.
There are six permanent painters and we employ temporary staff if the
production requires them. The teams working on the backdrops are small because
you can’t have that many people working on the same canvas and there has to be
a symbiosis between the painters. Sometimes we paint smaller items and
accessories. In that situation, the painter works on his own, as was the case
for the reproduction of Manet’s Olympia
which was hung over Violetta’s bed in La
Traviata. Before that, I’d been overseeing the trompe-l'œil work for the
set, for example, the fake marble for the staircase in the second act, a
replica of the grand staircase in the Palais Garnier.
“When reproducing a great masterpiece, we sometimes use computer graphics. The head of the workshop first produced a rough impression of the work using computer generated imaging and this formed the basis of my work. Here, the use of computers was doubly necessary because the director wanted the faces in the painting to resemble those of the soloists performing the roles of Violetta and her maid. The preliminary digital image generated what I call the “carcass” of the work, printed onto the canvas, giving an indication of the forms and the placing of the colours, like a watermark. My task was to rework this image in paint and restore its pictorial quality through the use of colour, texture and chiaroscuro. It was also important that the treatment of the faces correspond to the original painting in terms of light and colour in order to maintain overall coherence. I drew on a large number of documents on Manet’s style as well as analyses of the painting and close-ups of various details in the image in order to reproduce it as faithfully as possible. I painted the picture in oils using an easel, in accordance with painting tradition.
“Under the stage lights, there is no comparison between the
quality and beauty of a painted canvas and a printed reproduction which lacks
the depth of paint. The art of painting
remains very much alive at the Paris Opera and it is to be hoped that it will
flourish in the same way in other opera houses allowing set decorators to
continue to enjoy the rich possibilities offered by our craft.”
Interviewed by Milena Mc Closkey
La Traviata’s Chorus
Spotlight on the Paris Opera Chorus