I wanted to quickly rave about Opera Lyra's production of La Traviata, which opened Saturday night in Ottawa. Great show, great performances, good costumes and sets, and a packed house. It almost made me forget Ottawa's long, slow, painful march towards spring. (It snowed AGAIN on Saturday.)
But it unfortunately also inspired some really sloppy writing by a local reviewer. Are there no editors?
A quick recap. The opera's story is of a thwarted love affair -- Alfredo falls in love/lust with the courtesan Violetta. Behind Alfredo's back, his father, Giorgio, convinces Violetta that the love affair is ruining the family's reputation and endangering the marriage plans of Alfredo's youngest sister. Violetta agrees to give up Alfredo, the lovers are cruelly parted, and she dies of TB just as Alfredo learns the real reason Violetta dumped him.
So I was quite amused and fairly perplexed by a review in The Ottawa Citizen (know to local wags as The Ottawa Petfinder) of the opera's opening night. The reviewer described Georgio Germont, Alfredo's father ( played by Gregory Dahl) as "the story's evil genius, in a way." Good lord. How is he an evil genius? The character was hardly a mad scientist or doomsday plotter, and he was not evil, simply misguided. He didn't understand that Violetta really did love Alfredo and wasn't just playing with him, to the detriment of Alfredo's family.
The bizarre review continues: "Yet he (Giorgio) is clearly a man of great honour and compassion. Therein lies one of the opera's few missteps. We first meet him when he barges in on Violetta to demand that she break off her affair with Alfredo for the honour of his family. He expects to find her a slut. Instead he is struck by her goodness and dignity. He more or less falls in love with her himself."
How is this a misstep? Perhaps when Verdi wrote the opera, he should have given Giorgio a more compelling argument for busting up the lovers, than family honour. But is that a misstep? Should we blame the performers?
Small points, but I tire of sloppy writing...it's a miracle the writer of the review didn't describe Giorgio as suffering "a parent's worst nightmare!" or suggesting that "Christmas came early" for Alfredo when he fell for Violetta.