Sierra captivates as Violetta in Met’s “Traviata”

Wed Oct 26, 2022 at 2:24 pm
By Rick Perdian
Nadine Sierra as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera’s first season performance of Verdi’s La traviata caught fire from the moment Nadine Sierra appeared on stage as the glamorous Violetta Valery. As captivating visually as she was vocally, Sierra, making her house debut in the role, made an instant connection with the audience. It didn’t hurt that she was in pristine vocal condition.

Sierra wasn’t alone in creating sparks, however, as Stephen Costello’s Alfredo and Luca Salsi’s Giorgio Germont burned just as brightly. To add to the excitement, conductor Daniele Callegari drew sounds from the Met orchestra that were equally thrilling. 

Michael Mayer’s 2018 production has the twin virtues of being beautiful and compact. It’s also a crowdpleaser that makes no intellectual demands on the audience whatsoever. 

The action unfolds within blue walls adorned with extravagant metal filagree. Little changes on stage during the three acts of the opera, apart from the lighting and what is suspended from or depicted in the large hole at the top of the set. If the sky is blue, love is in the air. A bleak wintery early morning sky sets the mood for Violetta’s demise.

Mayer’s directorial flights of fancy are few. The curtain rises on the final scene of the opera. Violetta arises from her death bed to observe the scene, only to appear moments later in a glittering dress to great her friends at the party she is hosting. It’s unobtrusive, but unnecessary, as Verdi’s brief, achingly beautiful Prelude can stand on its own.

Alfredo’s sister, for whom Violetta sacrifices what remaining happiness she has left on earth, is seen three times. She is not a character in Verdi’s opera, and her appearances are the visual equivalent of sound bubbles. Some things are better left to the imagination.

For Sierra’s fans, who turned out in force for this performance, undoubtedly little of this mattered. They were there to experience the glamour and vulnerability that the soprano brings to Violetta, to say nothing of her superb artistry and lustrous voice. If their rush to applaud every moment of hers brought the dramatical and musical flow to a halt at times, that’s the price to be paid. As if to compensate Sierra has mastered freeze-framing.

Whether in the breathless, fast-paced “Sempre libre,” or spinning out seamless legato lines in Violetta’s farewell to life, “Addio, del passato,” Sierra combined beauty of tone with emotion to create an exceptionally compelling and real-life Violetta. The soprano’s phrasing was particularly effective. Watching Sierra’s Violetta’s reluctant acquiescence to Luca Salsi’s Giorgio Germont’s implacable demand that she sacrifice her happiness for the sake of his family was heartbreaking. 

As Alfredo, Stephen Costello was equal parts ardent, impetuous lover and milquetoast idealist. Costello, like Sierra, is the physical embodiment of his role. He is as easy on the eye as he is to the ear. The voice is sure and true, whether leading the rousing Act I Brindisi or hurling out insults. It’s as a lover, however, that Costello was at his best, especially in “De’ miei bollenti spiriti … Il giovanile ardore” in the second act in which he gave voice to the full expression of Alfredo’s love for Violetta. 

Luca Salsi as Germont with Nadine Sierra in La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera

Salsi was in particularly fine form as Giorgio Germont with his elegant, rich baritone. His judicious use of mezzo voce was particularly effective. As an actor, he was just as impressive. Germont’s instinctive repulsion when Violetta attempted to hug him after she had consented to leave his son rang true. Minutes later, Salsi’s Germont was crushed when his son had the same reaction to the father’s embrace.

There were two house debuts of note. As Violetta’s confident Flora, mezzo-soprano Siphokazi Molteno, a member of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, displayed a striking voice. Flora often comes off as frivolous and flighty, yet Molteno’s take on her was just the opposite. 

Even more formidable in voice and stature was baritone Brian Major as Baron Douphol. The price that Violetta paid for complying with the elder Germont’s wishes, could not have been made clearer than when she made her appearance on the arm of Major’s Douphol. 

Eve Gigliotti, as Annina, turned in another of her finely crafted characterizations. Such casting makes an opera real. 

Callegari’s 12 years of playing in the Teatro alla Scala orchestra were not for naught. When transparency and delicacy were called for, such as in the opening measures of the opera, the Met orchestra responded accordingly. If excitement was in order, he and the players made it felt throughout the house. The orchestra revved like the engine of a Ferrari in the Act I Brindisi. 

There will be many opportunities to see La traviata this season with three different casts and conductors. This performance set the benchmark high.

La traviata runs through November 19. The opera returns in January with Ermonela Jaho, Ismael Jordi and Amartuvshin Enkhbat, and again in March with Angel Blue, Dmytro Popov and Artur Ruciński.

3 Responses to “Sierra captivates as Violetta in Met’s “Traviata””

  1. Posted Nov 06, 2022 at 2:34 pm by Barbara A Benjamin

    Amazing, I was in tears with Nadine Sierra as she sang “Addio, del passato”.

  2. Posted Nov 08, 2022 at 5:50 pm by Catalina Bajpai

    Nadine Sierra brought me to tears twice. Her intelligent and sensitive expression of Violetta’s despair was skillfully sung in beautiful phrasing, with a rich sound and musical precision. She is a true Diva. Her physical beauty, grace and charm added realism to the rôle of a Courtisan, enhanced by the luxurious outfits she was given to wear in all three acts.

    The colorful Baroque staging enriched the presentation and matched the ostentatious nature of the wealthy upper classes of thevperiod in History the opera depicts. It was a great show. One of the best Traviatas I ever saw.

  3. Posted Nov 27, 2022 at 12:10 pm by Janni Andreassen

    Nadine Sierra was a complete surprise. A wonderfuld singing actress. A great lyric soprano. Thank you so much.

Leave a Comment


 Subscribe via RSS