Opera with a Tweet. It may sound like a hokey idea—perhaps even one that could derail an opera. Why do we care about what characters are Tweeting at each other? Won’t it take the viewer out of the setting, distract from the plot? The answer for Hubbard Hall’s La Traviata Max Live is “no” on all counts—at least for the first act.
The Tweets that popped up on the screen behind the players in Proctors’ GE Theater only added to the lighthearted, flirtatious atmosphere already made so solid by the 22-piece orchestra’s precise, upbeat rendition of Giuseppe Verdi’s composition. Before the show started the audience was welcomed to follow and Tweet along on their smart phones.
Rachele Schmiege hit her trills as Violetta just about as well as anyone could hope for, but it was all the more thrilling in the confines of the GE Theatre.
Christopher Lucier was a solid but muted Alfredo Germont. His stage presence was lackadaisical and petulant. At times it worked, and at other times it felt just a little bit off—especially for the opera’s tragic finale. And that too is when the Tweets became a bit frustrating.
Schmiege’s performance was so raw, and emotionally captivating during the opera’s climax that all else became a distraction—the Tweets, the images projected as a backdrop, and even Schmiege’s cast members got a bit in the way.
That is not meant as too much of a knock on the production or the cast. The production showed creativity often lost by major players like the Metropolitan Opera—which often offer bloated productions that act as spectacle rather than artistic performance, and fail to find a way to actually connect with the audience. And the supporting players like Robert Aaron Taylor as Giorgio Germont and Jonathan Stuckey as Dr. Grenvil were very good. The choreography of Heidi Lauren Duke was precise and entertaining. The orchestra and its conductor Maria Sensi Sellner were rock solid.
But Schmiege out shown them all.
Sure, occasionally Schmiege went a little too big on her high notes, but the performance was absolutely thrilling. Her transformation from tarted-up lady of the night to sickly, bedridden pauper was something not to be missed—especially in such an intimate setting.
Though it sagged a bit in the middle, this intimate performance packed enough thrills for just about any music lover.