[**Update**: The strike, which was to cancel Saturday & Monday's Traviata, as well as Barenboim's la prima of Prokofiev's The Gambler on June 16 has been called off last-minute by one of the unions.]
La Scala's cross to bear this season comes in the form of the popular Verdi opera, La Traviata, and it just goes from bad to worse. Unbelievable fallout continues to spin-off from the January 2008 cancellation of the highly-anticipated Terry Gilliam-directed Andrea Chenier. Scala decided to replace Chenier with the uber-boring & ultra-heavy 1990s Liliana Cavani-directed production of Traviata, which they had also dusted-off last July and put into the rotation, hoping to distract from the banality by offering Angela Gheorghiu in the lead role. We were there at la Scala for opening night, witnessed the horror with Angela Gheorghiu in tow, and let's just say that it wasn't pretty.
This time around it doesn't get much better: First came Devia's last-minute cancellation
of the rehashed production, then came Corriere della Sera's slam in the form of a
wicked, trashing review (see more below), and now
comes the inevitable Scala
orchestra strike. To further dismantle the slighted Traviata production currently running
at la Scala, the orchestra, once again, will strike tomorrow night (Saturday)
leaving Traviata ticket-holders in the lurch. a strike has been called off at the last minute by one of the many unions that basically run the opera house.
It has been a grand total of six months
that the Scala orchestra last pulled the whole strike drama, at the time
even risking the prestigious, much anticipated December 2007 season opening of the Barenboim-conducted Tristan und Isolde.
The current Traviata was slammed by Milan's music critic, who titled his review, "Monatanaro in Debut, Traviata Doesn't Fly." For the singers, he had nothing too offensive to recall, offering lukewarm praise to the adequate Violetta (Irina Lungu, the replacement of Mariella Devia), the technically-sound but charismatically-lacking Alfredo (José Bros), and Germont's always on-point Renato Bruson. It was the 39-year-old, Italian born conductor Carlo Montanaro who bled-out the dying production. The review relayed:
"Ma ad ascoltare questa Traviata pare un azzardo, un investimento spericolato. Il problema non sono i tempi lenti ma il fatto che non veicolano un suono conseguente; il suono, anzi, arriva stanco: cantabili sgonfi e impalpabili, cabalette pesanti. Non c'e' scatto, scarsa l'energia, non l'ombra di un guizzo. La temperatura drammatica non lievita, si resta ancorati a un passo faticoso."
Translation?:"But listening to this Traviata, it (ed: in reference to hiring Carlo Montanaro as the conductor) appears to be a reckless gamble. The problems are not the slow tempi, but lies in the fact that they don’t create a sound; the sound, in fact, is limp...with deflated and nonexistent cantabile and heavy cabalette. There is no pulse, very little energy, not even the shadow of a spark. The dramatic temperature does not grow, it remains anchored to a weary pace."
We're actually quite happy for those strike-stricken Saturday-night ticket holders, who can instead of rushing to the theater only to have a night of mediocrity and boredom, can instead enjoy their weekend sensibly.