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Traviata Arte Natalie Dessay

Last season the Metropolitan Opera had an enormous success with Willy Decker’s grippingly spare, almost surreal new production of Verdi’s “Traviata.” It has come back this season as a vehicle for the soprano Natalie Dessay. Ms. Dessay missed the first performance on Friday night due to illness, so the veteran soprano Hei-Kyung Hong, an admirable artist, took over.

On Tuesday night Ms. Dessay sang the second performance, conducted by Fabio Luisi. This was her first time portraying the touchstone role of Violetta at the Met. And before she uttered a note, Ms. Dessay, who had originally intended to be an actress, made a wrenching impression as the fatally ill courtesan.

The production places the action entirely within a curved, bright-gray wall that looks like an arena. To the side a gigantic clock ticks off the diminishing minutes of Violetta’s life. As Mr. Luisi conducted the orchestral prelude, which begins with melancholic music for strings, the petite Ms. Dessay appeared in a short crimson cocktail dress, looking haggard and blank faced.

Dragging her feet, she walked unsteadily, a woman with no doubt that her life is slipping away. But when she heard the bustle of guests approaching, she shook out the wrinkles from her dress, took a whiff of a white camellia, and put on her party face.

Singing Violetta’s first effusive lines, Ms. Dessay sounded vocally shaky, with some wobbly sustained tones and dry patches. But she soon warmed up and rose to the occasion when Alfredo, the man who has fallen for her from afar (the tenor Matthew Polenzani, who sang beautifully all night), offered a toast. Ms. Dessay joined in with lilting, carefree exchanges during the “Libiamo” duet and chorus.

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Natalie Dessay prepares to take on the role of Violetta in this documentary about the staging of Verdi's masterwork at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France.

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Plot Keywords:

la traviata|singing|singer|opera singer|opera| See All (10) »


Documentary | Musical


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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

24 October 2012 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Becoming Traviata See more »

Filming Locations:

Aix-en-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,040, 19 May 2013, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,282, 19 May 2013

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Les Films Pelléas, Jouror DéveloppementSee more »

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1

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Features La Traviata (2011) See more »

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