Last night, La Traviata at Naples' Teatro di San Carlo ended its run, but we're still (sliiiightly) obsessed after checking it out. Turkish-Italian film director/screenwriter Ferzan Özpetek's new production (think: if Violetta kept an opulent mansion in Istanbul, parquet layered in rich Turkish carpets) was honored in opening the storied Neapolitan opera house's 2012-13 season on December 5.
Maestrino Michele Mariotti restored manuscript cuts (*wink* uncut *wink*) and presented an insanely-intricate score full of swing and butt-shaking rhythm. Insanity, really, to hear such ballsy flow in a traditional, historical setting. Give this kid a turntable and he'll do damage.
Spotlight diva Carmen Giannattasio shook plaster from the walls and gold-leaf from the ceiling as an outrageously-juicy Violetta. Hurricane Carmen, a force of nature. Nevermind the fact that the opera house announced she was fighging a flu but would sing anyway. Hometown hero Carmen, born and raised in the mountains of Avellino (now living in London), returned to her native theater after the past year of singing at The Met (Leonora in Trovatore) and Covent Garden (Mimi in Bohème) to wide open arms. We discovered her in 2009, in Erminoe (just like Ceci, she attaches herself to rarer, unconventional compositions) and we wrote about her sultry, smoky, sexy, sassy presence and unique voice, blessedly more talented than hyped, for once, slamming back Rossini and Verdi in a way that makes us cross our fingers and hope that we've found the "proverbial precious truffle."
As a byproduct of Milan's Accadmia del Teatro alla Scala (1999 - 2001), an Operalia winner (in 2002) and racking a Gramophone Opera Award, sure, on paper, it seems like victories come easy for the Mediterranean firecracker.
But Giannattasio spoke candidly to Corriere del Mezzogiorno (not online) a few days before her high-profile season opening Violetta and shared a deeply personal struggle with her fans. Here it is in OC's translation:
"Thanks to a recent article that was written about my combination of vocal skill coupled with my charisma, I've been compared to a top pop idol. But in reality, I really don't think that I match the standards of a pop model. Actually, I'd define myself as a "trop model", size 38 [that's a "medium" size 4-6 in USA conversions], a person who likes fashion, likes to have an original look, but who is also careful of my physical form, especially considering my weakness for salty foods like "salsicce e friarielli" [sausages fried with a type of green vegetable, similar to broccoli rabe, that you find in Naples], pizza and sfogliatelle [insanely-delicious ricotta-filled, shell-shaped fried pastries typical to the region, which OC ate a’plenty].
The problem, unfortunately, is that on stage, they always want you to be forever young, lean, agile and beautiful. Therefore, there are many sacrifices, but the key is that you must do it without arriving at a fevered pitch, a paroxysm, like the same kind that unfortunately often grips the world of fashion.
I have to be sincerely honest -- in fact, it's the first time that I’ve ever come out publically -- starting in my 20s, and up until about 4-5 years ago, right in the middle of my career's big trajectory, I struggled with bulimia, which at times, relapsed. Singing and my voice waere the only things that saved me: Aside from the weight loss, I was losing my voice. It was then that I realized that I risked to lose everything.
And this is why I'm outing it. I want to make an appeal to all the girls and women out there: To stay fit is, of course, important, but like everything, you need to find equilibrium. Balance. It's better to cut out the junk food from your diet and walk a little bit more. Listen, it's not a coincidence that fashion designer Alberta Ferretti thought of me to model the dresses that she designs for curvier women. I mean, these are the kind of dresses that you can wear without worrying about indulging in a tasty sfogliatella! [seriously, sfogliatella straight outta Naples are to die for]."
Courageous, really, to speak about something that doesn't get any airtime in Italy. Easting disorders aren't as rampant here as they are in the USA, but it's simply not talked about.
By the way, those photos above and below come from a recent photoshoot that Giannattasio did with Italian fashion icon, Alberta Ferretti. Giannattasio modeled the collections in the San Carlo opera house,, found on OC's computer here: C:\Users\Opera Chic\Documents\My Pictures\Opera Divas\Divas That Will Cut You\Carmen_Giannattasio.jpg. Personally, we think of Giannattasio as a young Charlotte Rampling photographed by Peter Lindbergh.
And what about that Violetta in San Carlo? Slammed it! The Financial Times was there and said: "Carmen Giannattasio is singing with such well-judged phrasing, such a melting tone, such a compelling build-up of tension."
Italian critics raved, too, including Corriere della Sera's notoriously cranky classical music/opera legend, Isotta, who can cut down your entire career in a single sentence, usually written in Latin. Isotta, upon hearing Giannattasio, recalls divas past, just as Rupert Christiansen did, comparing her to actress Anna Magnani.Isotta paragoned her to, honor of all honors, Magda Olivero. He writes:
"The protagonist is the girl from Avellino, Carmen Giannattasio. She's got good pronunciation, a beautiful voice and grand technique. She has, like I wrote a few days ago about Jonas Kauffman [in his Teatro alla Scala Lohengrin review], a foundation of singing "sul fiato" and "messe di voce" that gives you goose bumps. Her "Ah! dite alla giovine" burns out your eyeballs. In my opinion, she's a model sourced and inspired like one of the greatest "Grand Dames" of operatic arts, Magda Olivero."
So really, what more is there to say?
(Giannattasio in Alberta Ferretti dress and shoes. Hair/Make-up Mariano Sabbatelli. Photo Alessandro Sarno in Naples, Campania.)