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Watch it with your eyes wide shut
on 23 January 2014
When Verdi and his librettist Piave decided to make an opera based on Alexandre Dumas' La Dame aux Camelias, little could they have known it would come to this. Minimalist is an understatement when it comes to describing the set. Perhaps they spent the entire budget on Netrebko and Villazon and only had five quid left for the Ikea sofa. Some would try to persuade you that this particular staging is a magnificent achievement. They would attempt to justify their enthusiam for all things Ikea with the argument that this is a production which demands you use your imagination to conjure up something yourself and that the minimalism only serves to focus the attention on the singing rather than allowing costumes and scenery to divert the attention away from the aural delights on offer. To this I say "Tosh"! This is supposed to be a performance of an opera in a theatre, performed by musicians, singers and actors for the delectation and delight of the paying punter. If I merely wish to listen to the music I'll buy a CD. When I go to the opera I want to see a performance, complete with costumes and scenery appropriate to the production and somewhere close to what the authors intended. This is not that production. This is akin to watching a performance of Swan Lake sans tutus tights and even the lake, where the dancers and corps de ballet wear t shirts and shorts and don't actually dance but walk around a bit.
"But what of the music and singing?" I hear you ask.
The singing is what you would expect from La Netrebko and her swarthy chum Villazon. She spends most of the time looking like a bit of a tart in a red dress while he gurns and over-acts in his usual eye-bulging fashion, replete with bushy eyebrows and noticeable lack of height.
So if it's a visual treat you're looking for, I suggest you watch this with your eyes wide shut. Or just buy the CD and listen whilst using your imagination.
Or even better, if you are a supporter of the minimalist school of opera, read the book and whistle the tunes yourself.