Two Traviatas–2.

The second video, from Glyndebourne, is altogether more interesting as integrated interpretation. In an updated setting, it has a gentler, quieter feel, a clearer tracing of the character’s thoughts and feelings, and a closer relationship between the singing and the excellent orchestral playing. The opening recitative catches a contemplative mood, the aria leaves room for moment-to-moment nuance, and when Alfredo asks Annina where she’s coming from, there’s the tiniest of hesitations before her “Da Parigi.” “O mio rimorso” has a keener pulse and crisper observance of note values than the earlier version (though the accents are still smoothed out), and ends again with a fine top C. Glyndebourne, I should note, offers the venue and the rehearsal attention that a big-house rep performance cannot for work of this sort, which is also conveniently video-friendly.

So this performance is about as comfortable a match as we are likely to get between our modern going-on-with-everyday-life preference and the older solo-scene conventions. Still, an unease remains. We first see Alfredo through a scrim, fixing himself a midday drink as the orchestral introduction plays. The scrim rises. Alfredo has the drink. He turns to us: “Lunge da lei . . .” All perfectly sensible, good to look at, avoids the entrance booby-trap. But wait. What was that music, with its quick shimmer, it’s warm-blooded pulse, its closing bars of ta-da? Is that music for a man standing at a table, pouring himself a short one? Did Verdi just throw any old thing in there–or, if we don’t want the hunting outfit and gun or the riding crop, shouldn’t we at least look for something more active, perhaps not with baskets and pillows? Between musical tone and action, something’s off, don’t you think? Later, Alfredo clasps a garment (otherwise–here we are again–it would be just himself with his thoughts and feelings), and during the cabaletta, he paws among the household account documents, for the same reason. Always an external object to display for us, to keep going a scene that was structured for a different kind of theatrical thinking. The belief barrier intelligently approached, but not o’erleapt.

These two videos show Fabiano doing what all of today’s successful singers—even the ticket-selling stars—do, adapting both their physical actions and their vocal/musical ones  to the immediate performance circumstances, which change not merely in this or that detail of set or staging, but in their fundamental conceptualization, as if rewritten. Collaboration or/and submission, according to your p.o.v. He did so again in the Met/Decker production. As I noted earlier, I didn’t really hear much of that, despite being there. I can only report that after changing his treatment of the “Qua-si” G to the now-traditional one for Glyndebourne, he returned to his diminuendo at the Met, and that this high C was short of triumphant. His approach to the note (it is, of course, an interpolation) is to lay out of the preceding bars and then jump in quickly for “La-ve--!”. (And this is the place to explain that since we’re in italics for the foreign language, I’ll be reverting to Roman to denote accented syllables.) As noted, this serves him well on the videos. On March 1, however, he seemed surprised to arrive at the moment quite so soon (could it have to do with staging distractions? Perish the thought . . .) and rather dashed off the upbeat (as if two sixteenths, not two eighths), winding up with a C that couldn’t quite decide whether it belonged to the full-voiced segment below it or the more falsetto-ish one above. It didn’t help that he directed it straight off-left, rather than angling it out toward us. Just an accident of the night, I imagine.