We just have arrived home from a dress rehearsal of the opera which is the opener of the 2007/2008 season at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. “La Traviata.” By Giuseppe Verdi. An opera in three acts with two intermissions. Three hours total. A war-horse as they are called, part of the seasons over and over again. First performed at Teatro La Fenice, Venice on March 6, 1853, over one hundred and fifty years ago. The music is beautiful. The voices are superb. The acting is believable. The story ... NOT! In fact, the story demonstrates one of my pet peeves.
An aside: Gregory and I visited Venice in May of 2004. We stayed at a hotel that was just adjacent to what used to be, then was, then used to be, and now is the Teatro La Fenice. Construction of La Fenice began in 1790 and was completed in 1792. It burned to the ground in 1836. La Fenice rose from the ashes (that is what the name means) in 1844. In 1996 it was once again completely destroyed by fire. In March 2001, a court in Venice found two electricians guilty of setting the fire. Enrico Carella and his cousin, Massimiliano Marchetti, appeared to have set the building ablaze because their company was facing heavy fines over delays in repair work. Carella, the company's owner, was sent to prison for seven years, while Marchetti received a six-year sentence. It took, in the manner Italian, from 1996 until November 2004 to rebuild the opera house and the first production in the new opera house was La Traviata. How fitting.
A second aside: One morning as Gregory and I were preparing for our day’s outing in Venice, we heard a beautiful tenor’s voice drifting through our window which opened on the construction site of the most current La Fenice. The site consisted of a hole in the ground, a tall crane erected in the center of the hole, and a steel frame that would become the perimeter of the building. Wondering where the music was coming from, we peered out of our window and saw a lone construction worker, with hard hat and overalls, climbing the crane and singing. He was singing an aria from La Bohem. Was a “goose-bump” moment. Construction site, construction worker, crane, opera aria, La Fenice. Can you tell it is an experience neither of us will ever forget?
Back to the story. “La Traviata” that is. It is a story about Violetta, a courtesan (a prostitute with wealthy upper class clients cerca 17th centry France) who falls in love with Alfredo and in Act One, gives up her old loose way of life to love only him.
In Act Two, Alfredo’s father persuades Violetta to give up his son for Alfredo’s own sake, his sister’s and family’s sake, and to please God. Violetta decides to leave for Paris but first writes a letter to Alfredo, packs, and leaves. Alfred arrives home, his father returns, a messenger shows up with the letter from Violetta (whom the messenger happened to meet on the road,) and Alfredo declares he will get his revenge on Violetta for leading him on and then deserting him. P.S. Violetta is dying of consumption.
In Act III, Alfredo returns to forgive Violetta and ask her forgiveness, Alfredo’s father asks her forgiveness as well, the doctor arrives, Violetta is feeling much better and stronger, and asks forgiveness from both Alfredo and his father. A moment or two later she falls over dead. At least she died happy.
Back to: 1) The music was beautiful. 2) The voices superb. 3) The acting believable. 4) The story ... NOT. Here is the peeve, at least from my point of view: Why waste all that time when life passes too quickly as it is, why miss opportunities, and why reap all that sadness when you could have spent your time more happily from the beginning. Why not follow your heart in love and don’t worry about what your parents or what God might say. Have you been dishonest? Have you harmed anyone? Have you been true to yourself? These should be your tests. If your answer are NO, NO, and YES ... you pass.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy to live your life? If Violetta and Alfred had done that from the beginning, the opera would not have gone on for three hours. But maybe a brief encounter of honesty and love is worth more than any three hour period of time? Maybe the opera was closer to real life than I imagined!
January 23, 2010 - Revised