About Claire

Claire est passionnée d'art depuis toujours. Elle aime tout particulièrement et depuis toujours aussi, raconter à ses proches, avec liberté et imagination, ce qui lui a plu, que ce soit à l'ecrit comme à l'oral. En particulier, Claire est fana de musique, que ce soit classique (opera, concerts au Philharmonic), ou pop. Mais aussi de danse classique et moderne, et d'expos d'art. D'ailleurs, en plus de sa passion pour l'art, Claire chante (chorale) également depuis 15 ans à New York en l'église de Saint Ignace de Loyola, prend des cours de danse, dès qu'elle le peut, et joue aussi régulierement au tennis. Française depuis toujours, New Yorkaise depuis 15 ans, américaine depuis 5 ans, mariee, deux enfants, Claire est depuis 2014 bloggueuse, après avoir fait du fund raising pendant 4 ans pour l'ecole américaine de ses enfants, et avoir été publicitaire en France et aux Etats Unis avant pendant 15 ans (chez BDDP et Leo Burnett à Paris et chez FCB et Grey à New York). Claire is passionate about art and has always been. She especially likes to share whether in writing or in person, with her loved ones, what art triggers for her, as it unleashes her vivid imagination. In particular, Claire is fanatical about music whether classical (opera, concerts at The Philharmonic) or pop. Adores as well dance whether classical or modern, as well as Art exhibits ( Paintings, Photography...). Besides admiring art, Claire also sings (at Saint Ignatius Loyola for the last 15 years), takes dance classes every chance she gets, and plays tennis regularly. Married with 2 children, Claire has become a blogger since 2014, after having led fund raising events for her children's school for the last 4 years, and having led a previous career in advertising for 15 years in Paris (BDDP, Leo Burnett) and in New York (FCB, Grey).

“La Traviata” by Verdi: true love always awards wonderfully awe-inducing backbone, to rising heroine…

MET Opera House building–Lincoln Center/Tuesday January 14th, 2020.

This week friends, welcome back, to another one of our MET Opera’s thrilling evenings!

Let’s (re)discover, a unique and dazzling icon of the opera repertoire; one of the most poetic, romantic, passionate, philosophical, sad, mesmerizing, complex, yet stunning and most popular operas, ever; which premiered in 1853; by Verdi; about the beautiful, transcendental, heroic backbone that love generates, even in dire circumstances, when one, truly loves.

Yay!

Always a wonderful and dazzling rich treat, to dive into, “La Traviata”, thanks to the lush music and arias, wonderfully conducted, by British Maestro, Karel Mark Chichon last Tuesday; and also, thanks to the incredibly mesmerizing, original, creative, colorful, free flowing, and elegant production by Michael Mayer.

Let’s not forget of course, as well, the importance in this opera, of the moving and tender libretto, by Francesco Maria Piave (a libretto inspired mainly, by Dumas’ wonderfully romantic novel “La Dame aux camélias”) whose complex plot, about’s Violetta’s vulnerability and heroism, also definitely struck a chord with many musicians of that era, and also, probably inspired, parts of Massenet’s “Manon” and Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” heroine personalities, in addition to the Abbé Prévost’s “Manon Lescaut” novel. And let’s also, remember as well, the inspiration provided by Dumas’ famous affair with Marie Duplessis, a “courtesan” like beauty, who had numerous admirers and lovers; and like Violetta, fell ill, and died young.

Oh boy!

But for now, let’s get back to our opera, to our epic “La Traviata”, in all of its richness.

Yay!

First, let’s start by watching a trailer of this incredible masterpiece, and let’s admire, in particular, the incredibly fairytale-like, ground breaking, and poetic Mayer production; with different singers, than those we applauded last Tuesday.

So elegant and mesmerizing!

Isn’t it?

And specifically, in this production, I was fascinated by one of the key opening symbols: the lighting prowesses of a delicate, huge, blooming camellia depiction, projected on top of Violetta’s bed, to convey/evoke (for me), the three main themes of this opera: true love, illness (tuberculosis), and death.

What a feat!

So what is ” La Traviata’s” plot about?

In a nutshell, “La Traviata” tells us the touching story of a strong, yet ill young courtesan, Violetta, who discovers her dormant heroic qualities, when she finally discovers love, and all it entails in terms of actions, to be worthy of this wonderful feeling!

And who she becomes, even though she does not live long, is so beautiful, and epic, that this opera has kept on moving audiences, for centuries, as it celebrates so uniquely, life; in all its difficulties, and also, fortunately, true love!

Yay!

But first, let me tell you about the incredible singers, we were given to admire last Tuesday.

I really loved Polish soprano Aleksandra Kursak, as the complex and fascinating beautiful Violetta; especially, as she discovers slowly, her strong moral center; yet, the fun she has, in the beginning of the opera, as a pleasure-seeking courtesan, is also wonderful to watch; as so free, charming and joyful; But I must reiterate, that I particularly admire also, the gravitas she brings to Violetta, as she encounters, in addition to her liveliness, and charms, (and, as the story unfolds), true love, and her true heroic fiber.

Everything matters!

Yay!

And the two Germont men (son and father) were equally wonderful: dashing Ukraininan tenor Dmytro Popov blew us away, with his beautiful and cristalline technique, acting skills, and charm, as Alfredo (Germont son); as did spectacular and moving, Hawaiian baritone, Quinn Kelsey, as Germont father, who contributes especially in transforming/ in allowing Violetta to rise, as an honorable, truly heroic, and worthy character, supported paradoxically, by both, her strong love, and her unshakeable principles, when faced with complex circumstances.

Yay!

But before getting into the plot’s intricate details, let’s listen to the major themes, this opera evokes; right from the intro: the illness that already overpowers Violetta, the lurking death nearby, as well as, fortunately also, the strong love, Violetta will be able to feel, which will allow her, to discover her humane and heroic qualities.

Yay!

Enjoy!

Isn’t it gorgeous?

I just love it!

And before getting back to the opera, let’s stay a little longer, on the idea of the enchanting camellia, and what it evoked for many artists at the time: let’s first start, by reading a beautiful poem by Armand Renaud, which really celebrates the feelings this poet has for his lover, while idealizing superbly, his lover and this flower’s charms; a poem, I am sure, Verdi, would have found, absolutely thrilling, as well.

Yay!

“Mon amour, tu te plains qu’avec le coloris
Dont les camélias décorent leur pétale,
Ils n’offrent nulle odeur à l’amateur surpris
Qui rêvait un parfum d’essence orientale.

Ayant de leur éclat admiré tout le prix,
Tu n’en gémis que plus de cette loi fatale
Qui sur le rossignol jette un plumage gris
Et qui veut que, plein d’or, le paon rauque s’étale.

Moi, je suis plus heureux. Depuis le soir si doux,
Où, dans l’oubli profond du monde autour de nous.
J’ai respiré ces fleurs à tes cheveux unies,

Elles ont pour mon cœur des douceurs infinies,
Et, réveillant en moi les souvenirs aimés,
Tous les camélias me semblent parfumés”.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

Dumas was more dark about love, than Verdi.

In his “La Dame aux camélias” novel, Dumas wrote a particularly moving line about the/his heart; but in his case, it was a more cynical line, about the heart’s free will, and sometimes fickle nature.

“Notre coeur a des caprices, c’est sa seule distraction et sa seule excuse”.

Of course, it is a less idealistic view, and he is entitled to it.

So, to me, Verdi (just like the French poet Armand Renaud), both transcend the heart’s potential fickle nature, which Dumas mentions; and in Verdi’s case, in his “Traviata”, this transcendence happens through the strong and powerful love that unites Violetta to her Alfredo.

Yay!

And at that time, as mentioned, for many other key artists, including writers, the camellia was equally important: for Gustave Flaubert, the camellia conveyed a skin tone hue, one sometimes exuded, when loved.

How charming!

Let’s read an excerpt from Flaubert’s masterpiece “L’éducation sentimentale”:

“La foule marchait lentement. Il y avait des hommes causant au milieu du trottoir et des femmes passaient, avec une mollesse dans les yeux et ce teint de camélia que donnent aux chairs feminines la lassitude des grandes chaleurs…

Isn’t it incredibly poetic as well?

Yay!

And even in the early 20th century, camellias inspired huge artists, including in cinema, particularly Cukor, with his 1936 “Camille” film.

A real romantic masterpiece!

Yay!

And if you listen well, to the following excerpt, you will even hear, Verdi’s “Traviata” music, at times, at the end of the excerpt.

How about that?

Yay!

And of course, the camellia, is also still associated to luxury, in today’s world, and to one of the most elegant French “Maison” ever.

Yes, you have recognized it!

Enjoy here as well, the great storytelling, about the importance of the camellia, to the Maison’s founder.

How about that!

But let’s get back now, to our camellia inspired opera, by Verdi!

And let’s admire also, before we do, two portraits of the gorgeous young woman, as mentioned earlier, the real character, who inspired in Dumas (and in many more, including Verdi), great passion: the beautiful Marie (Duplessis), who had numerous lovers and admirers, and as Violetta, in “La Traviata”, also fell ill, and died young.

Oh boy!

Wasn’t she gorgeous?

Just like our opera!

Yay!

So let’s get back to the plot: “Traviata” tells us the story of a “fallen woman” a true beauty, and a wonderfully worldly and charming courtesan, living only for pleasure and parties; yet, she will discover in herself, a true moral compass, as the story unfolds.

Yay!

Act 1 starts at a party, as we discover Violetta, who knows she will die soon, exhausted by her courtesan’s life; Violetta meets there Alfredo, who has long been fascinated by her, and inquiring about her health. In a toast to Violetta, Alfredo celebrates true love, and Violetta responds by praising instead, continual pleasure.

Oh boy!

The party then, moves to the ballroom, and as Violetta and Alfredo remain alone, he declares his feelings to her. Violetta then replies, that there is no room for such feelings in her life, and gives him a camellia instead, asking him to return only, when the flower will have faded. We realize that Violetta is torn by conflicting feelings; she does not want to give up her lifestyle, yet, Alfredo has awakened her desire to be truly loved.

Oh boy!

Let’s now read an excerpt of the libretto, to get a sense of Violetta’s personality, and her love of “pleasure” in all its forms, as the opera starts, before she “transcends” in Act 2, her behavior, once she does, indeed, “awaken” to love.

Yay!

CHORUS I
You were invited for an earlier hour.
You have come late.CHORUS II
We were playing cards at Flora’s,
and the time passed quickly.VIOLETTA (going to greet them)
Flora, my friends, the rest of the evening
will be gayer because you are here.
Surely the evening is livelier with good food and drink?FLORA, MARQUIS
And can you be lively?
 
VIOLETTA
I must be.
I give myself to pleasure, since pleasure
is the best medicine for my ills.

Let’s now discover how Violetta, the beautiful courtesan, reacts to love, which she discovers for herself, to her great surprise.

Let’s read the text:

VIOLETTA (alone)
How strange! How strange! His words
are burned upon my heart!
Would a real love be a tragedy for me?
What decision are you taking, oh my soul?
No man has ever made me fall in love. What joy,
such as I have never known – loving, being loved!
And can I scorn it
for the arid nonsense of my present life?
 
Ah, perhaps he is the one
whom my soul,
lonely in the tumult, loved
to imagine in secrecy!
Watchful though I never knew it,
he came here while I lay sick,
awakening a new fever,
the fever of love,
of love which is the very breath
of the universe itself –
Mysterious and noble,
both cross and ecstasy of the heart.
Folly! All is folly! This is mad delirium!
A poor woman, alone,
lost in this
crowded desert
which is known to men as Paris.
What can I hope for?
What should I do? Revel
in the whirlpool of earthly pleasures.
Revel in joy! Ah!
Forever free, I must pass
madly from joy to joy.
My life’s course shall be
forever in the paths of pleasure.
Whether it be dawn or dusk,
I must always live. Ah!
Gaily in the world’s gay places,
ever seeking newer joys.

Isn’t it incredibly poetic, even if filled, with equally strong, conflicting emotions?

Oh boy!

Let’s now, listen to one of the early, and most beautiful arias of this opera (to me), sung here, by the magnificent Angela, a great artist, I admire immensely.

Yay!

And now, let’s listen to other wonderful arias, also from Act 1, by two other skillful and talented singers from today, brilliant Anna and Rolando:

Enjoy!

Yay!

And let’s admire now, some more of the great production and lighting hues, aren’t they just, incredibly elegant and refined?

I can’t help it, I am fascinated!

Yay!

Isn’t it gorgeous?

Just extraordinary!

And how about the beautiful blue color, we can admire below?

Just incredible!

Isn’t it?

By Act 2, Violetta has finally and fortunately (for the most romantic audience members), chosen love, over her courtesan life; and both Violetta and Alfredo, are unbelievably happy; and even if, money issues are present in their lives, their love for one another, prevails.

Yay!

Violetta is invited to a ball, but no longer cares for such a lifestyle; and instead, meets in her home, with Alfredo’s father.

Alfredo’s father will then, ask of Violetta, a huge sacrifice: he will ask her to separate from Alfredo, as to not darken his family’s honor; as Violetta and Alfredo’s current “liaison”, threatens Alfredo’s younger sister’s impending wedding.

Oh boy!

Of course, because Violetta has finally come to truly love Alfredo, she accepts, as she understands immediately, that from a bourgeois point of view, her “liaison” with Alfredo, indeed, has no future. She then writes a goodbye letter to Alfredo; and is reassured by the fact that, only after her death, will Alfredo learn the truth; about why she chose to return to her old lifestyle.

Oh boy!

Violetta decides then, to go to the ball she was recently invited to, and when Alfredo learns about it, furious and jealous, Alfredo joins her there, as news of Violetta and Alfredo’s separation, has spread at the ball. We then discover Violetta, with a new lover, a baron; all sorts of mayhem develops, and Alfredo behaves disgracefully towards Violetta.

Oh boy!

By Act 3, Violetta is dying, and Alfredo’s father has told his son, about Violetta’s sacrifice, to ensure family honor. Alfredo is able to rush to her side, and before she dies, she feels one last miraculous sense of pain relief, and freedom, before death, finally, claims her.

And of course, it is incredibly sad, but also beautiful, to witness her stunning and awesome character, as well as her last wonderful moments of happiness, with all those who matter to her, by her side.

And of course, it reminds me also of another movie (which actually ends well), of Julia Roberts in Marshall’s “Pretty Woman” (1990) who is herself, moved to tears, by Violetta and Alfredo’s beautiful, heroic, yet dramatic (of course, as it happens often at the opera) love story ending.

Let’s watch the “opera” scene from “Pretty Woman”:

Enjoy!

Of course, many of us opera fans, or just “Pretty Woman” fans, remember it!

Yay!

Just like the opera audience is always moved, by some of the last beautiful words/images which Alfredo offers, to his Violetta:

“My very breath of life, sweet
pulse of my heart!”

Isn’t it just magnificent?

And one of the beauties of this opera, to me, resides also in the fact, that even though, it ends heroically and dramatically, everyone forgives each other; and in the end, chooses peace, as they have truly loved each other.

Yay!

As Sheffield says:

«Tis the most tender part of love, each other to forgive».

And I always like to picture Violetta in my mind, even though, it ends on a sad, yet heroic note, I always imagine Violetta mostly, as a beautiful, vibrant, otherworldly creature with a real back bone; and as fascinating, in her charms and beauty, as Esther Williams was; for many, as well.

Yay!

Enjoy this fun excerpt!

You will see, she even portrays herself at one point, as Botticelli’s Venus!

How about that!

Yay!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Joyful…

Peaceful…

Happy …

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊