If so, make sure you catch “Becoming Traviata” (France, 2012) at the Whitsell Auditorium tonight, or over the weekend both Saturday and Sunday evenings. Verdi’s “La Traviata,” is, of course, one of the classic favorites performed countless times about a tragic love affair between a courtesan and the son of a wealthy merchant. It is filled with vocal and instrumental music quite familiar to opera fans.
This documentary is a look behind-the-scenes at a production of this opera for the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France. The style is modern, the set design minimalist. This stripped down version is a refreshing interpretation of “La Traviata,” often produced with opulent settings, lavish costumes, and elaborate sets.
The primary focus of the film is on the relationship of Stage Director Jean-Francois Sivadier and French coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay, who performs as Violetta. Together they work toward capturing the movements, gestures, emotions, indeed, the spirit of the character of Violetta alone, and also as she interacts with her lover, Alfredo (the American tenor Charles Castronovo). The exact movement of the hands, the method of falling to the floor, the emphasis on certain words, and all other precise details are worked out. Filmmaker Philippe Béziat devotes much of the film on the creative exchanges between Sivadier and Dessay.
Fascinating is watching all the aspects of the opera coalesce. The minimilist scenery, dramatic acting, wonderful music, and precise choreography all lead to displaying the unique vision of the artists. Part of the film also features conductor Louis Langree and members of the London Symphony Orchestra as they work on the glorious music. The costume designers, tech people, and stage hands also are working as the opera “becomes.” The trailer below shows a bit of the emphasis of the film.
Film Director Philippe Béziat captures the progress made by all as numerous rehearsals of the same scenes occur, each time showing refinement and change. Remember, though, that this is a film about the rehearsals, so do not expect to see the final performance. It is a treasure to be able to see the work that goes into an opera before opening night.
Tickets can be purchased online at the Northwest Film Center’s website or at the theater one half hour prior to screening times. The film is showing tonight, May 31, Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, June 2 all at 7 pm.
Since 1971, the Northwest Film Center has offered screenings and education about film and video, and brings an amazing variety of offerings to the Portland area. Many are screened at the Whitsell Auditorium, which is in the northern side of the Portland Art Museum. Seating is comfortable, with excellent views from every area of the theater. It is a wonderful venue for this film and all others shown there.
Sources: Northwest Film Center website, IMDb website, Natalie Dessay website, Charles Castronovo website