No performance of any opera has been improved by the presence of a leaf blower on stage. The Stanislavsky Opera Company’s performance of La Traviata at the Merrill Auditorium on October 26 was no exception. Apparently stage designer Vladimir Arefiev found the temptation irresistible.
As the curtain rose at the beginning of act one the audience was presented with approximately nine rectangular Plexiglas cubes, reminiscent of the set used in Franco Zefirelli’s 1982 movie of La Traviata. Each of these towers could send up a contained cascade of paper leaves. Overall the effect, albeit cute, proved distracting: The mosquito- like drone from the blowers had people reaching for their cans of Off, and the giant boxes created challenges for the vocalists to sing around.
Despite the unfortunate set design, the opera itself was everything an opera should be. Violetta Valery, the main character played by soprano Elena Semenova, exuded the passion and charm and loveliness imagined by the composer Giuseppe Verdi. And mezzo-soprano Elena Maksimova, who played Flora, Violetta’s friend, was a powerful presence on the stage. Even in the corners, all eyes were drawn to her. Every note from her lips filled the Merrill from pit to balcony.
Opera, unlike life, requires the viewer to forgo his or her sense of logic and allow his or herself to be flooded and moved with passion. In turn the show gives the viewers a chance to live, vicariously, a life filled with reckless abandoment, perfect beauty, devastating consequences, and awe inspiring music. The Stanislavsky Opera Company did this last Tuesday, and did it well.