Teatro alla Scala Preview 2016-17 Season: Ailyn Pérez and Anna Netrebko Tackle Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’

By Francisco Salazar

This week the Teatro alla Scala will revive the 1990 Liliana Cavani production of Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

The production returns after DmItri Tcherniakov’s 2013 staGing failed to please Scala audiences.

This time the Cavani production will be sung by two leading sopranos. First Ailyn Pérez will bring her acclaimed Violetta to the theater. Perez has performed the role around the world at the Royal Opera, Bayerische Staatsopers, Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Hamburg State Opera among others. She will perform on Feb. 28 and March 3 and 5.

Following Perez’s performances, Anna Netrebko will take on the role for the first time since 2010. The soprano returns to “La Traviata” noting that her mature voice will finally suit the three stages of Violetta’s music. Netrebko’s Violetta is one of the most iconic interpretations in the past decade as her DVD of the Willy Decker’S Salzburg production is among the best-selling releases in recent times.

Francesco Meli will take on the role of Alfredo, continuing his work in the Verdi repertoire while legendary baritone Leo Nucci will sing the role of Giorgio Germont.

Legendary conductor Nello Santi will return to La Scala for the first time since 1971 and will lead the La Scala Orchestra and Chorus.

The Opera

Verdi’s “La Traviata” is one of the most popular operas in the repertoire and has been directed by some of the leading directors in the world including Franco Zeffirelli, Sofia Coppola, Marta Domingo, and Willy Decker among others. The role has also been a signature for many sopranos including  Maria Callas, Anna Moffo, Mirella Freni and Renata Scott and recently has been a fixture in Angela Gheorghiu, Anna Netrebko, Marina Rebeka and Diana Damrau’s repertoire among other divas.

The opera contains some of the most famous melodies including “Libiamo,” the drinking song which is performed often as an encore at concert performances. “Sempre Libera” is also very popular and has been one of the most iconic soprano cabalettas ever written. The score for the opera is also considered revolutionary for Verdi as it segued into his second period. The second act duet between Germont and Violetta is particularly revealing in how the composer eschews traditional duet structure through a continuous flow of new melodies.

Popular Recordings

Maria Callas was one of the most famous interpreters of the work but never made a single studio recording. However, she has three live recordings that are available through Warner Classics, which have been reissued numerous times. Antonietta Stella also has a very famous recording with Giuseppe di Stefano and Illeana Crotubas’ has a version with Plácido Domingo from Deutsche Grammophon. Renata Scotto also has a very impressive recording with Riccardo Muti, which contains no cuts.

On DVD, the opera has numerous recordings that are of note. Angela Gheorghiu’s Royal Opera House recording is historical as it features her breakout performance as well as Nucci as Germont and there is also a 2007 performance from La Scala which features Cavani’s production. The 2005 Salzburg production with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón is one of the most popular of modern times and the Oscar-nominated film is also something to see as it features Plácido Domingo and Teresa Stratas in their primes.