La Traviata was based on the same
Dumas novel that inspired the classic Greta Garbo weeper Camille. It is your basic
story of love, loss, and tuberculosis.
Fortunately, it is a pretty easy narrative to pick-up, because there are
no talking head experts or voice-over narrators to lay it out for viewers in
Philippe Béziat’s behind-the-scenes documentary Becoming Traviata (trailer here), which opens this Wednesday at Film Forum.
Sivadier’s staging of La Traviata for
the Aix-en-Provence Festival is to be a stripped-down, minimalist production. His cast, led by Natalie Dessay, will be out
there, very much exposed. A stage actor
in his own right, Sivadier clearly understands the challenges. He will guide them through what might be
considered a method actor’s La Traviata.
to belabor the obvious, but this is a film very much intended for opera
lovers. Neither Béziat or Sivadier will
take time out to explain why the Verdi opera is so timeless and enduring. You really should already get that coming
in. Likewise, few uninterrupted performances
are shown in their entirety. Instead, Béziat
shows how scenes evolve throughout the rehearsal process.
is enormously talented, but Sivadier is the true star of Becoming, because Béziat doc is more about directing than
singing. The audience will come to
understand how he shapes every bit of business on stage, refining every aspect
of the performances. To an extent, Béziat
also shows conductor Louis Langrée working with the accompanying London
Symphony Orchestra in a similar manner.
Granted, this is definitely the equivalent of inside-baseball for those
not deeply steeped in the opera world.
However, for aspiring stage directors (musical or otherwise) it should
be fascinating stuff. The music is
pretty good too.
These are cinematic salad days for opera fans,
with Becoming hitting screens shortly
after the frothy comedy of 1st Night. This is a much better film,
but it is also somewhat less accessible to general audiences. An underserved market, Opera fans have not
had this kind of look under the hood since Susan Froemke’s Wagner’s Dream (which frankly was a more dramatic film, largely because
it documented a production built around a huge set piece that did not
always work). Easily recommended for
Opera listeners and those fascinated by backstage nut-sand-bolts, Becoming Traviata opens this Wednesday
(5/15) in New York at Film Forum.
Labels: Documentary, La Traviata, Natalie Dessay