What if opera became reality? La Traviata by Michał Znaniecki

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What if opera became reality? La Traviata by Michał Znaniecki
What if opera became reality? La Traviata by Michał Znaniecki

18th March, Opera na Zamku (Szczecin, Poland) presented a long-awaited Grand Premiere of La Traviata, directed by Michał Znaniecki. Expectations were as high as the level of fears. Is it possible to show such touching and sincere story of an courtesan, in modern staging, without loosing the actual meaning of this opera? Director, conductor and their co-workers tried to do this.

Verdi’s idea was to reflect the society. La Traviata was to be a kind of mirror for the audience. Abandoned woman, surrounded by people, but living alone. Znaniecki made a step forward. He, not only, showed Verdi’s idea trying like composer, to find the “reality” and influence the audience, but made it suitable and adequate for nowadays living, world. 

By setting the action in the world of grand fashion shows, Media, “posh” society, this “Traviata” became more real and reflective. Violetta, suffering because of cancer… Why? One more trial to make it even closer to the audience. This Violetta could live among us. Terminal disease like cancer is nowadays, unfortunately, a common thing. A lot of people live alone in a world full of noice, intrigues, world, where everything is for sale and time flies really fast.

This “modern” version of one of the biggest Verdi’s works is full of symbols. Almost everything has a hidden meaning. Overture and dancer taking off the crinoline and staying in red mini dress- it is still the same woman, but living in nowadays world. Next scene- fashion show, Violetta- like Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada), looking through catalogues, to choose something for next issue. Alfeedo- photographer. “Libiamo” and chorus standing closer to the audience (Znaniecki took advantage of quite original stage’s space). Now- audience becomes  a part of performance. This is us, living among “them”, normal people, crossing our sides everyday.. Alfredo and Violetta’s kiss („un di felice…”) and a lot of paparazzi, trying to take them a photo. Flora, showing her breast just to attract crowd’s attention (effectively..). Hidden message- only nudity is worth something. Not the real emotions, only appearance. 

What if opera became reality? La Traviata by Michał Znaniecki
What if opera became reality? La Traviata by Michał Znaniecki

Next act- Violetta, suffering from cancer, Germont (pastor) giving her a checque for “grave sacrifizio”. Duet between Alfredo and Germont. Son- looking for web, ignoring  his father’s words. Next scene. Chorus, taking photos at the “Wall”, interacting with the audience (taking “selfies”, asking about their feelings and impressions). Is it not our reality? Flora’s party. Alfredo, in his furry, taking off Violetta’s wig, showing her pale skin. A lot of emotions. Between people on the stage, as well as between audience. Music intensifies the feelings. One of the toughest scenes. Different characters, leaving stage after the curtain close.  Another symbol- maybe they are like us? They actually could be one of us…

Final scenes. Funeral fashion show. Even death is for sale… Models losing parts of their bodies, collapsing like Violetta. Traviata’s monodrama. Abandoned, sitting on the bed, squeezing the X-rays and singing „Prendi, quest’è l’immagine, de’ miei passati giorni…”. Incredible scene. In the background- 3 more beds. 3 Violettas- her alter ego. And different characters approaching to them, not to her. She remains alone.  Then- moment of death. Another symbols- the order of dying Violetta’s alter-ego… And everything matching with touching and expressive orchestration. 

The main role, during premiere, was Marcelina Beucher. Young soprano. Her voice, despite the interesting timbre (seemed better for Mozart’s roles), lacked strong, secure and wide high notes. But her “addio del passato” sounded emotional and her acting skills were convincing. Tenor rolesung by Andrzej Lampert, sounded wide and bright. His Alfredo was passionate and loving. Germont- Leszek Skrla seemed to be the best voice in this staging. He showed great baritone timbre and matching role appearance. 

Impressive scenography by Luigi Scoglio, intriguing light directing (Bogumił Palewicz), symbolic costumes mixing “old” with “new” (Joanna Medyńska), choreography (Elżbieta Szlufik-Pańtak, Grzegorz Pańta) and orchestra (demonstrating emotional interpretation, through interesting dynamics and understanding Verdi’s partiture) leaded by Vladimir Kiradjiev created Znaniecki’s Traviata.

And it was more than only a “performance”. It was the reality on the stage. Znaniecki found hidden meaning of Traviata. His direction was fresh, suitable and “really real”. Audience “got”his vision. Standing ovation (not so often in this theatre) proved it. Director reflected nowadays society. Audience, leaving the house, did not leave the performance. They simply moved out of reality to reality. And that was the point. 

Katarzyna Kubińska