La traviata (DVD)
Nadine Sierra, Francesco Meli, Leo Nucci, Caterina Piva; Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta; dir. Davide Livermore (Florence, 2021)
Dynamic DVD: 37955; Blu-ray: 57955 146 mins
Paris 1968, student posters and slogans projected on the walls and a rave with hip bohemians at Violetta’s place broken up by the Riot Police. Davide Livermore’s production is seriously crazy with the partygoers dressed as refugees from the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album, a French version of Mrs Overall, cigarette firmly clamped in her lips, wheeling a tea trolley around the penumbral sets, hints of a brothel in Act I, and Violetta breathing her last on a red velvet ‘hot lips’ sofa. As for Flora, manfully played by Caterina Piva, she seems to bestow her affections on whoever is standing closest.
What saves the show is its conductor, Zubin Mehta, who clearly loves this music. The ensemble at the end of Act II is masterly with the orchestra seeming to hold its breath as Violetta is humiliated by a remorseful Francesco Meli – a vocally pedestrian Alfredo in an improbable wig.
American soprano Nadine Sierra’s Violetta gives Livermore’s production a heart. Magnificently confident in the final scene of Act I with a glittering ‘Sempre libera’; there’s ravishing soft singing when Leo Nucci’s Giorgio Germont persuades her to relinquish his son (however noble a presence, Nucci is, alas, over the meridian vocally); and finally an ‘Addio, del passato’ that would make the Parisian cobblestones weep, if the students haven’t torn them up.