Willy Decker’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” has its season premier at The Metropolitan Opera tonight. The opening will feature soprano Diana Damrau in her first-ever performance as the opera’s heroine, the courtesan Violetta. She will perform alongside tenor Saimir Pirgu, singing the role of Violetta’s lover, Alfredo, and baritone Placido Domingo, portraying Germont, Alfredo’s father and the man who tries to keep them apart. The production will be led by conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Based on the play “La Dame aux Camélias” by Alexandre Dumas, Jr., Verdi’s classic three-act opera is a tale of doomed love in 1840s Paris, revolving around the tragic Violetta. An appropriate tale for an opera whose title literally translates as “the fallen woman.”
Running at the Met since New Year’s Eve 2010, Decker’s stripped-down, aesthetically modern staging brings a contemporary twist to the old favorite – something its creators initially intended to do but censorship at the time forced them to move the setting back a century. While Decker’s vision has not been embraced by all, New York Times music critic Anthony Tomassi has given him credit for being innovative. As he wrote in his review of the production when it first premiered: “Still, this is an involving and theatrically daring production that belongs at the Met. And unlike the suffocating [Franco] Zeffirelli staging it replaces, it is a showcase for courageous singers.”
Even before Decker, “La Traviata” has a long and rich history at the Met. The opera was first performed a month after the house’s 1883 opening, and since 1894 has been part of all but 15 seasons.