Still baffled -- and saddened, and appalled -- by the inexplicable booing directed last night by the Bayerische Staatsoper audience at poor Daniele Gatti after his splendid, sensitive conducting of Aida, Opera Chic earlier tonight went to the Nationaltheater to check out the trio of stars -- Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann, Simon Keenlyside -- appearing in Traviata, directed by Keri-Lynn Wilson (her husband, Mr. Keri-Lynn Wilson, the gentleman who for the time being is still running the Metropolitan Opera in New York, was in the audience too, almost rubbing elbows with Opera Chic).
Tonight, in these quick notes posted before the -- forthcoming, be patient -- full review, Opera Chic will simply say that, obviously, the monster cast -- probably the Violetta/Alfredo/Giorgio Germont with the biggest possible star power in opera today -- delivered: Gheorghiu, looking really great, acting as her usual hammy but effective Violetta, sounding better than when Opera Chic had last heard her @ la Scala in Traviata, made the most of her not gigantic voice, consummate professional that she is. Kaufmann -- who, in Corriere della Sera's memorable words, would be a legendary singer if he were as good as he is handsome -- delivered a not particularly nuanced but stunningly effective Alfredo, healthy voice and flawless delivery and all. Simon Keenlyside, the third star of the night,
as Germont was his usual Machiavellian aristocrat, charisma going at full blast, 100% bravura, and a dignified, aching "Di Provenza" to remember.
Tomorrow, in the full review, Opera Chic will explain better why the production by Günter Krämer, already used by this opera house with a different, lesser cast, didn't really work. But at least Günter Krämer had a few ideas (O.K., three ideas -- all of them bad).
Keri-Lynn Wilson's total number of ideas for the night instead was, sadly, 0. And considering that, give or take, because Opera Chic doesn't have the score readily available in her Munich hotel room, Traviata's score must run about 500 pages long, 0/500 is pretty bad.
Even Opera Chic's hated Big Papi Ortiz, now basically an ex-player, has a better batting average than that.
It's a shame because Wilson has many good things going for her -- she has a beautiful, clean gesture, very precise and easy to understand, and she doesn't shamelessly overuse her left hand the way so many of her contemporaries (and younger conductors) do, trying to ape Claudio Abbado's fantastic left hand shaping. But her Traviata tonight sounded so vulgar -- not in a voluntary choice to whip up a brutalist, aggressive Verdi as an interpretation choice. She simply fell in all the traps set by the composer in his score.
Starting with the preludio, Act I, with those pesky horns and bassoon, Wilson warned us that the oompah-oompah factor of the night would be astonishingly high. Then trumpets, trombone, the lethal cimbasso were set free to go medieval on the audience's ears, making Verdi's score much more crass, and uninteresting, than it actually is. She went downhill from there, with an almost comically loose third act -- she only seemed to have interest for the strings, that sounded at least flat and not harsh. But the shaping was mostly nonexistent -- it was Verdi as third-rate composer, Verdi for people who have contempt for his operas. It was as if Hans von Bulow's malevolent ghost had sent Wilson as a ninja assassin to flesh out the cartoonish Verdi of von Bulow's caricature -- Verdi for the "Wagner is God" crowd.
Then, of course, the same audience that last night booed Daniele Gatti's nocturnal, imaginative, deeply literate Aida, cheered and cheered and cheered and stomped their feet for Wilson's Traviata, not an opera but a series of arias with orchestral accompaniment punctuated by audience ovations -- opera as Broadway. Thus answering the question Opera Chic had been asking herself for the last 24 hours -- they booed Gatti and gave ovations to Wilson because they don't really know what they're doing -- because they think "Fettuccini Alfredo", a dish that in Italy doesn't exist and no Italian would recognize as such, are for them the apogee of Italian cooking.