Oh Lordy Lordy.
Where to begin?
OK, Italy's leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, goes nuclear in so many ways on the Scala production of Traviata that Opera Chic had the misfortune to attend last night (and she missed a very nice Southampton 4th of July barbecue for this!).
The first attack is, well, a subtle but lethal stab -- the paper's lead classical music critic, the one who declined to review Gheorghiu's Traviata in Rome last April and went to a performance of the understudies instead (best diss evar), declined to review the Scala's show, and opted to write a beautiful hommage to the late Beverly Sills (taking care to point out how, among her many accomplishments, the usually very stern Corriere lead critic writes, Sills has been "one of the greatest Violettas" in history).
Among the praise for Sills, "queen of technique and of pathos", kudos to her "unique vibrato technique", "a musicality of the highest order", her chilling death scenes, and she "will forever have a unique place in music history". Then the critic admits that in her arias of deepest sorrow, she had the power to literally move to tears.
What a beautiful hommage.
And the duty to review the Traviata fell on the shoulders of the other Corriere critic, a urbane scholar who's usually polite and moderate in his pans. But he made an exception last night.
Let's see, and remember that we're talking about the review of a usually quiet musicologist and college professor who's on the record as being that rare creature, a critic who usually likes Maazel:
... Angela Gheorghiu, Romanian soprano who has the habit of acting as a ridiculous diva in an era that does not allow such behavior anymore...
... to see today this 1990 staging means to see all the dust, all the wear and tear, all the problems that make it much weaker than its actual age suggests. It's a Traviata completely without ideas, a staging that does not say anything on the mystery of this woman, one of the most fascinating creatures ever imagined by an artist's mind...
(Maazel), formidable French-American musician, is a capricious man: can conduct divinely, as in the recent Rachmaninov concert here at la Scala and can give useless and lazy performances such as this one... the music sticks to the skin like humidity in these clammy Milan days, heavy, dead, unless Maazel occasionally remembers to be the artist he is... slow tempi, washed-out sound...
(Gheorghiu) the "diva" is truly an average soprano, small-voiced, wrong diction, but she does have colors, intonazione, and even beautiful expressive moments. The problem? She acts on stage like the diva she believes herself to be, with hysteria... not even young Pavarotti could get away with this stuff...
The critic for il Giornale goes nuclear as well. Just read his first two words:
"Ouch. Ouch." ("Ahi. Ahi" in Italian).
And then the barrage begins, mentioning how "Gheorghiu sings the way they used to sing in provincial opera houses a long time ago... irregular emissione... the shabby vowels of her Italian diction... the speed changes meant to create cheap effects. If she hadn't announced her presence here as some sort of Messiah the audience would have greeted her cordially, because she's a singer who deserves respect in her repertoire... Maazel's inertia is very different from his great days on the podium... the booing upset him in the finale... only rarely a conductor abandons his singer they way Maazel did by refusing the curtain calls".