These "difficulties" derive from the untenable, though surprisingly persistent, belief that there is a "pure" version of a book, play or other literary effort that a filmmaker can somehow serve if only he or she is "faithful" enough to the original. This attitude is never less defensible than with a work like "La Traviata," since Verdi's opera is itself an adaptation of a Dumas novel. If composers are free to adapt novels without censure, why should filmmakers have to justify their changes?
On the other hand, having chosen a particular work, the filmmaker can't just ignore it. So stuffed to the gills with decor, splashy camerawork and whirling, twirling, cavorting extras, "La Traviata" doesn't so much ignore the opera as overwhelm the story and music which were, presumably, the reason for making the film. The score is competently performed, although lacking in the visceral and emotional thrills one would expect. Some of the most famous arias have been truncated substantially, giving the impression that the filmmakers were embarrassed by their familiarity. Domingo and Stratas give it their all, but don't bring out much in each other.Read more ›
Franco shows Violetta's clinging to her free ways when she knows her heart is being captured by Alfonso with a wildness that is so appropriate. She rushes in a foreshadowy nightrail through the darkened mansion, strewn with champagne bottles and dead symbols of the festivities with a madness that I always thought belonged in "Sempre Libera". It's fabulous. Not that any of these operas are symbols of feminist power, but if you want to see the perfectly balanced stylistic performance that shows grit and sadness of a prostitute who knows she is dying and giving up her found love and tenuous happiness for the happiness of another, this is it.
I first saw this movie when it was relatively new, and when I had never even seen a live opera yet. It was as extraordinary for me then as my friends continue to find it. From the moment I saw Placido Domingo in Violetta's hallway, I was hooked on him. But then, I have always been partial to extremely masculine foreign men like Rossano Brazzi.
It's wonderfully filmed, with lush settings and beautiful costuming, especially for Teresa Stratas, our Violetta, the jaded courtesan dying of consumption but eager to grasp at a last chance for love and happiness. With her dark hair and eyes, she bewitches Alfreddo, who impetuously offers her all he has, his love. For a time, it seems that happiness and health is theirs in the country retreat they find, far from the excesses of Paris, but Alfreddo's father arrives and makes a request of Violetta put in terms that she cannot refuse. A misunderstanding between the lovers arises, and tragedy for all is the result. But the audience finds itself caring very much about these characters and wishing that things would turn out very differently.
One scene which I particularly like is when Violetta, Alfreddo, and her lover the baron attend a sumptuous party at Flora's. Here we have dancing gypsy girls and extremely acrobatic matadors tearing up the scene and getting the blood boiling, before things really begin to heat up with the romantic triangle.Read more ›