Sofia Coppola (director)
09 July 2017 (released)
05 July 2017
Depending on which country you are in La Traviata is billed as either Sofia Coppola’s or Valentino’s, director and costume designer respectively. They could possibly have lobbed in set designer Nathan Crowley – who designed a few Batman sets amongst others, anyone but the composer Giuseppe Verdi.
That could suggest that this such a masterpiece of film, costume and design that the composer is not relevant. Or the distributers want to protect Verdi’s name and reputation from a dog of a film, and load responsibility/apportion blame elsewhere. It’s neither.
Verdi’s masterpiece is almost indestructible and it could be relocated to Woodstock circa 1969 and still survive. As it is this production filmed at the teatro dell ‘opera di Roma is notably traditional in setting and execution.
The basic plot is that Alfredo and Violetta – a courtesan - fall in love, at her party. The end up living together but Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, disapproves of their relationship. Germont visits Violetta at her home in the country and convinces her to leave Alfredo. Alfredo is distraught, believing that Violetta has left him out of self-interest, and he attempts to embarrass her a party which badly misfires: he is humiliated. Violetta now very ill and on her deathbed. Germont now understanding the extent of her sacrifice for Alfredo, tells him everything. Alfredo arrives and is with Violetta as she dies.
The opening Act in Violetta’s home and the set is dominated by an enormous staircase. The chorus are in fine form and Francesa Dutto as Violetta achieve a good balance as a witty host and courtesan. Unfortunately, Antonio Poll as Alfredo doesn’t match her. He looks incredibly nervous and as such his performance is stilted.
The real problem is that there is very little chemistry between them and that’s all too apparent in Act III in Violetta’s bedroom in her death throes when Alfredo returns, and he appears clueless. Though in all fairness this Act is all about Violetta, and Dutto is sublime.
Roberto Frontall as Giorgio Germont is excellent as a caring father who badly misreads the situation and is left with an overwhelming guilt.
On a technical level, Coppola’s direction is fairly straightforward not really shifting too far from convention. The sets are impressive although Act 2 in Violetta’s country house looks like the inside of an English suburban conservatory.
It’s all a bit flat and highlights the difficulty of crossing these art forms. The audience member in the auditorium, while in all likelihood concentrating on the action, has the free to roam and pick up the nuances of the performance, on the stage. That is removed once filmed and the cinema audience are entirely in the hands of the director and editor.
Where it does score is on Valentino’s costumes which are sumptuous. In Act II, scene 2 at the party we have a black set, with the guests dressed in glorious black garments while Violetta is clothed in a beautiful red dress. This sets her apart but as Alfredo blunders, she is not the one isolated.
Overall, it’s a visual treat, though the performances do vary. But neither is it a chore, the music is as wonderful as ever and it zips along nicely. The advice will always to try and see it live but as a taster, this is fine.