As I mentioned my last post, I spent the previous weekend in Venice with one goal being to see an opera at Teatro La Fenice. And as I previously wrote, it was just as amazing and beautiful as I expected. I’ll first talk about La Fenice a bit and then give a short critique of La Traviata which we saw.
Teatro La Fenice is perhaps the number two opera house in the world (perhaps we would need to arrange a mud-wrestling match between it and Opera Garnier in Paris to determine the number two) behind the infamous Teatro La Scala in Milan. It has burned down at least twice. The most recent disaster being in 1996 when some corrupt electricians burned it down to avoid paying fines for work delays. The restoration took years – it reopened for opera performances in 2004 with La Traviata. It is in the classic Italian style with a flat floor seating area behind the sunken orchestra pit surrounded by 5 floors or gorgeously decorated loges. Our seats were in the 5th row towards the middle left. Great seats actually! But then, for €180 per person, I suppose that is to be expected. The name Fenice means “phoenix” and it got that name from the first time the theatre burned down and rose from its own ashes in 1792. The Campo San Fantin where it stands behind Piazza San Marco is in a beautiful neighborhood with amazing little bridges and intersecting canals. Ok, so that describes maybe 95% of Venice but this neighborhood also has the advantage of not crawling with tourists! As for post-spectacle eats, we can heartily suggest TravelAdvisor’s #4 restaurant inn Venice, I Beccafica which was excellent both in terms of service and food quality.
As for La Traviata, the production is the same one from the 2004 debut. It is a contemporary set in a sort of triangle receding into the left corner of the stage. The piece starts in Violetta’s apartment / bordello / casino with a big party where she and Alfredo meet. The second act is in the forest where the father of Alfredo, Giorgio, convinces Violetta to leave his son because of her questionable morals and then switches to another big party scene complete with dancers seemingly from the Crazy Horse – both male and female. The last act takes place in Violetta’s apartment where she dies of pneumonia. Each decor was,again, very modern but sumptuous and beautiful too. The major roles all had excellent singers: Patrizia Ciofi’s Violetta was convincing and impressive in her soprano range of both notes and depicted emotions – it seems she has sung this part also at La Scala as well as at Barcelona and Tokyo, Gianluca Terranova’s Alfredo was a solid tenor and vigorous actor, but it was Claudio Sgura’s Giorgio who stole the show with his splendid baritone and amazing stage presence. We particularly appreciated the two moments when these three all sang together – particularly in the 3rd act. Truly an unforgettable performance.
The special things about seeing an opera in Venice are, well the delicious Belinnis during the entracts and, even better, the moment you walk out of the theatre into the Venitian evening – it is magic because there are no cars or sirens. It is a peaceable din of conversation that gets slowly swallowed by the night. It is hard to think of anything more romantic or nostalgic to be honest.