Staging La Traviata in a modern setting is really hard because as audience, we love the nostalgic feeling. However, in the Salzburg Festival 2005, they really manage to achieve that. In my opinion, it can be one of the most successful modern staging of all. Subjectively, I will examine the whole opera and staging in my own way.
In the overture, we see a man, a clock and a tired Violetta. Who is this man ? Is he death ? Is he old Alfredo that actually narrate the story in the book ? Or is he the father or the god ? This question will be answered in the end. The clock is an easy reference to the death. However, we should pay attention to the changes in the clock throughout the opera. From this opening, seeing Violetta tired and sick, fainted in the old man’s arms, I understand that in the beginning we saw the end, and this opera actually narrated. It can be also understood from the overture if examined.
Instead of a big ball scene, we have men chasing Violetta that looks like a modern party. After birindisi, when Violetta doesn’t feel good, we see the old man again with dark lightening leads us to think towards the association with the death. The aria ‘’Un dì, felice, eterea’’ is really important for the whole opera. We should pay attention that we fist hear the melody in the overture, and from the actual scene we understand that the melody is associated with love. In the opera, we will hear the melody again, when Verdi repeats the melody, he expects us to remember this scene that we first hear with the lyrics. The other think to consider is that we see the old man watching the scene, he still present. After Alfredo left, old man speeds the clock, and Violetta tries to stop it. In my understanding, Violetta’s time is consuming. Also, lightening returns to the first blue setting. When Violetta tries to convince herself that she doesn’t love Alfredo, she defines joy as drinking and partying, while in the end she transforms into someone else that defines joy as death.
n the second act, we know that they are in the village, and with the minimum decor, we understand clearly from the flower patterned fabrics. The clock is partly closed with the fabric; maybe love makes Violetta feel better, like time stops. The red dress in the hanger means that Violetta put that life behind. There is a grand duet between Violetta and Alfredo’s father. Grand duet consists of small arias that don’t repeat themselves. Through the end of the opera Violetta slowly remove the fabrics, knowing that the life they are living is come to an end, that everything changed and the clock appears again. The old man watches the scene above. She wears the red dress again, and returns her previous lifestyle. While Violetta writing a letter to Alfredo to make him leave, we hear a solo clarinet that play simple notes and make our hearts stop. These notes may be the most intense melody of the whole opera. Until this point, we thought that the ‘’Di quelle amor’’ is the main point that the opera centralized. However, we hear the ‘’Amami Alfredo’’, we understand that ‘’Di quelle amor’’ derived from that melody and their love consisted the break-up all along. They were never meant to be together anyway. Violetta has to be alone for a lot of reasons and although we will be angry to Alfredo, Alfredo has to leave Alfredo. The entertainment scenes is used to not overwhelm the audience with intense sentiments. It can also interpreted as the life continues exactly around us, no matter what we experience. In this staging, it looks like they are making fun of Alfredo, with imitating Violetta. They are also rip off the hour and minute hand, that technically freeze the time, but I don’t think it has a significant meaning since later, they replace them in the center of the stage. When Alfredo gambles, and Violetta overwhelms with the situation, clock runs incredibly fast, Violetta doesn’t have the strength to deal with the situation and it consumes her literally. When everybody left, the old man appears with a dramatic entrance that backs up my previous statement. The money scene in this staging is really strong. We see Alfredo’s rage, he can’t stop himself, just continues to throw money, wants to drown her with money. Later,Violetta removes her red dress, and everybody facing the old man, Violetta accepts Alfredo as he is, she accepts death as it comes, kneels in front of the old man.
The second overture begins. Second overture has forgiveness, matureness in it. We grown up, we don’t get mad, we are watching the old man throwing everyone around her outside with small steps. She is now ready to die, she knows this is the salvation. In the third act, the old man sings the doctor’s part. He has the answer to her desease, he gaves the bad news to Annina. In my point of view, he is the death. When she reads the letter from Alfredo’s father, for the first time, Violetta talks with the ‘’Di quelle amor’’ at the background, however she knows it is too late. When she sings ‘’Teneste la promessa… Addio del passato…’’ she is becoming stronger and stronger, raising on the clock and finally lean on the old man, she is supported by death. When we see the festival passing by, she saws a version of herself moving away, she feels like outside world mocking herself, stole a part of her. The clock disappears, we don’t need it anymore. Old man always present from now on. Alfero came but Violetta knows it it is too late because she didn’t want to get better before, now she wants to but it will not happen. After Alfredo and his father tried to unburden their conscience, Violetta talks again for second time, again accompanied by ‘’Di quelle amor’’ but this time melody go somewhere else. She feels powerful for the first time, and she finds joy in death.