This famous opera, loved a lot by opera lovers. However, if you try to summarize the story, then you realize there is no plot to tell, there is a girl who is sick, who falls in love, then dies. Why we love it so much? Is it because opera is more natural than others?
Opera begins and we see Rodolfo and his friends’ regular life. It is an ordinary day, they don’t have much money, they deceive the land lord etc. Later Rodolfo meets Mimi and they fall in love. In the second act, they are outside and they will eat at the restaurant. Décor changed but there is no time difference, we continue from where we left. In this scene there are a lot of different events happening at the same time. Rodolfo’s and Mimi’s pure love, Musetta and Marcello’s complicated love and the usual events; children wants toy, military band passes by etc. For example; sudden appearance of the military band is meaningless, because the life itself is meaningless, you can encounter a lot of thing in a daily life and it doesn’t mean anything for you. In the act 3, Mimi complains Marcello about Rodolfo’s jealousy. Later, we found out that Rodolfo just couldn’t bear to see Mimi’s dying. There are also Musetta and Marcello at the same scene, while one couple softly love each other and tries to separate but couldn’t do it, the other couple fight with each other and insult one another. There are a huge conflict in music that we call ‘’double music’’. While one couple faces serious problems; like Mimi’s illness, the other just fights over flirtation. Is it just the way the life is or are we alone with our own problems? In the last act, we understand Musetta and Mimi left, then suddenly Musetta brings Mimi back very sick. Everybody tries to help her, Rodolfo and Mimi remembers their love and first meeting with a lovely duet consisting of previous melodies that is remembered, and then in the lack of awareness Mimi dies. The characters in the stage notice it by one by, but the music never notices. When, at last, Rodolfo realizes that Mimi is gone, we hear the C sharp minor chord that moves us. The most effective chord of the whole opera waited for Rodolfo’s notice silently. After that, we hear a beautiful, soft but sorrowful melody. Music is written for Rodolfo’s pain, not for Mimi’s death. After all, as audience we only become sad for Rodolfo. Death is painful only for the rest of us.
La Boheme is affected by naturalism. It is a realistic opera. Mimi’s death is not noticeable. It is different than Violetta’s magnificent end, or tense waiting of Carmen’s death. Life doesn’t stop for nobody, even Puccini’s music indicating that by not giving any clue for aria beginnings.
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.
La Traviata is Verdi’s famous opera, based on a book ‘’La Dame aux Camelias’’. Pretty Woman is a movie that has similar subject as La Traviata. The subject is based on a prostitute that falls in love. If we compare La Traviata and Pretty Woman, we will see there are some clichés that is used in both, and there are differences makes them successful.
Both start with the scene of ordinary lives. The first things that we understand are Violetta lives through a luxury life and Vivian doesn’t have enough money. However, in my opinion, the differences between Pretty Woman and La Traviata starts from beginning, we suddenly apprehend that Vivian is a prostitute, because we know all the cliches that cues us, the boots, pennilessness, the wig, the make-up etc. In La Traviata, if I wouldn’t read ‘’La Dame aux Camelias’’, I may not understand that Violetta is a courtesan. The reason is that I expact today’s clues to understand but in that era the luxury life, the ball, flirting with man were the clues. So both start with clues to understand our main character’s life styles.
In La Traviata we witness the change Violetta goes through. At first scene, she describes joy as drinking, flirting; in the end, she describes death as a joy and I think, in the last scene, seeing Alfredo didn’t satisfy her, because he disappoint her, the society disappoint her and only death can save her now. In the other hand Vivian didn’t change at all, we already sense her innocence from beginning since we have a bad example, Kit.
The other point is, Violetta such a strong character that she never ashamed who she is, she knows what she walks into and she accept that. She said to Alfredo’s father that if she told Alfredo that she doesn’t love him anymore, he wouldn’t believe; however, Alfredo never question her behavior and get angry immediately. That reaction, I think, a little bit cliché, even in the book, I understand immediately that Violetta will get harm and Alfredo can’t find the truth since he’s not looking for it. However, when Alfredo explain guests what she done and throw money to Violetta’s face, I expect that the crowd will condemn but they stand up for her and that surprises me. It is very nice to have that because exaggerate Violetta’s pain is overwhelming and less realistic. There is probably a moral concern here, but I prefer to think they are not trying to give a message but rather blame Alfredo about even give her up so easily. Thinking Pretty Woman, although there is a common assumption is the money scene is similar in both, I disagree with that. Vivian confronts one problem and immediately get angry with him and ask for her money, reminding him that it is all nothing but a deal. And then, they cool down and everything goes back to normal, contrasting with Alfredo’s allowance to let his anger become hatred.
Another cliché is in both main female characters associate themselves with a similar story’s character. Violetta read Manon Lescaut and Vivian watch La Traviata. In both we are remanded that these stories have a predictable ends. That’s where Violetta find her courage, and that’s why Vivian doesn’t accept Edward’s final offer, I think, when Edward arrive in the last time in the car, we hear ‘’Amami Alfredo’’, it can’t be a coincidence, it is like Edward saying that she doesn’t have to make a sacrifice.
The big difference between two is that in La Traviata we have the father figure. It means we have a public opinion figure, that states what society expects, what God expects etc. However in Pretty Woman Vivian, in the end, says that she wants more. In the movie we expect them to avoid the public opinion; however, in the opera we know that Violetta has no other choice but to leave, the facts are unavoidable.
Both focus on the concept of prostitute, La Traviata emphasize that a prostitute can’t live a normal life, and avoid the consequences, but stating the fact that people can change; Pretty Woman emphasize that prostitutes are not one stereotype, you can’t label them, they can have a great potential. Both use some clichés to make us pity, to make us feel guilty. However, La Traviata is such a masterpiece that I didn’t pity Violetta, I even envy her due to her sacrifice, her great emotions; and in the end I expect to get angry with Alfredo, and I feel pity for him, it’s like I mature throughout the opera.
When Carmen arrives, she immediately state that she came inspite of warning of she might be killed by Don Jose. I think she knew that this will be her end but she has no choice but coming since her character doesn’t have a luxury to be afraid of. When the most important scene of the opera is happening, we hear the Toreador’s song which is completely surprising but it creates the most important effect. When cellos play only two notes, it expresses too much for us since it create contrast. My opinion of composer’s choice of playing Toreador’s song is composer wants us to think about Toreador and the crowd, and watch the front scene with the thinking of second scene. This gives two effect, one is the fight of bull is likely more important, I mean the life is moving forward and people didn’t influence by dramatic events that much actually. The second effect is cellos are trying to hint the crowd and Toreador about the events that happens to Carmen, as saying them there is an event happening here, won’t you care. And the most dramatic melody played when Carmen dies, I think they are not because of Carmen’s dead, but her loneliness and pride. Because noone notices cello’s crying, and they continue enjoying the victory and only notice her when they finished celebrating.
Madama Butterfly is about a geisha which can be presumed as prostitution with a little difference since there is a wedding ceremony etc. On one side, there is a collision of two different culture and on the other side, collision of extreme love and supineness.
In order to understand the opera, we first understand the Butterfly’s fragility. Otherwise, our rationalism and pride won’t let us understand her situation. She seems to be believe that Pinkerton will be back, however, I think she knows the truth in a deep level due to the fact that she never lets people to talk with herself about the reality. The sentence of ‘’He won’t be back.’’ Cannot be told to her and when American consul asks what she’d be doing if Pinkerton was to never return, she sings ‘’Che Tua Madre’’. In this aria, she considers the situation however she knew that Mr.Shapless didn’t bring her any good new, that’s why she didn’t let him talk. And after ‘’Che Tua Madre’’ he couldn’t tell her, Cho Cho San didn’t hear the words she’s been avoiding.
Butterfly has changed her religion for her husband, and in his absence she blame her own gods, and she tries to become more and more American. When the consul arrives, she insists him to wear his shoes and offer him American cigarettes because her house is an American house now. She is alienated to her own culture because she subconciously search for an answer, wants to discover a reason to keep him away and tries to become a person that Pinkerton loves. The music brings that perfectly. Whenever she returns her own tradition (like final harakiri scene), we hear the Japonese harmonies.
While staging the Madama Butterfly, since there is a lot of available material to use, dancers with fan, sky lanters etc. are used a lot, however, I would not prefer that much material to be used on the stage. If I were staging Madama Butterfly nowadays, I would not use dancers on the backstage for example since we already familiar with Japanese culture. These are rout out the audience. On the contrary, we must feel close ourselves to her. I would use Japanese structure in the house but keep everything very simple and make audience to focus on music. The puppet child only make us to watch the string pullers.
If we come to end, we see a totally different Butterfly, the only moment that we see her realising the truth. She’s become herself and returns who she really is. That fragile Butterfly is now so strong in a way. Now we know that she’s pretending to be someone else to press her doubts and fear. Realising the truth she gets rid of her fake identity. Her aim is not to make Pinkerton regret his behaviour, killing Butterfly in front of Pinkerton will be wrong I think, because she is doing it for herself only and we understand that she has no choice because she’s never change actually. Butterfly is who she is.