Mine seems to be a minority opinion here, but this production was a big disappointment. I was looking forward to Patrizia Ciofi as Violetta because she was thrilling in the recent Lyon Opera production of Lucie de Lammermoor. I was curious to see Roberto Sacca as Alfredo because I've only heard him as a sweet-voiced Mozart tenor (he does a great job of humanizing Don Ottavio in The Zurich Opera's 2001 Don Giovanni). And I expected great things from Dmitri Hvorostovsky who was so good as di Luna in Il Trovatore.
The first surprise was to see Violetta played as a common prostitute instead of the self-educated and refined courtesan, Marie Duplessis, on whom Verdi based the character. To help with this transformation, the director updates the setting to the 1970's, Violetta parading around in flimsy lingerie and Alfredo appearing to be some kind of photographer (paparazzi perhaps?). I can accept the director's choice to focus on Violetta's "bottom line" profession, but in Act I, Ciofi and Sacca play their characters as so self-absorbed that they are entirely unsympathetic. How can we believe Alfredo loves Violetta when, as he cries "mysterioso" in "Di quell' amor," he's throwing photographs at her ("head shots" in the trade) and then sings the rest of the duet with his camera in front of his face, snapping pictures? This duet seems like a complete failure to me.
Ciofi continues to disappoint in Act I. She oversings and overacts in her big set piece. I find it painful to watch. In Act II, Sacca's voice comes alive in "O mio rimorso," but why is the floor of the forest covered with U.S. dollars printed with Verdi's picture? I don't get it. (The bills later fall like leaves as Violetta cries "Amami, Alfredo," providing a big distraction in what should be the opera's most heartbreaking moment.) I was hoping Hvorostovsky would save the day as Germont, but he's strangely stiff and remote as the concerned, if overbearing, father. He seems uncomfortable in the role.
Ciofi's best moments come in her death scene, including a haunting rendition of "Addio del passato." But on the whole, this production feels forced, from the singing to the acting to the directorial choices. For Traviata on DVD, I recommend either the 1992 La Fenice production with Gruberova, Schicoff, and Zancanaro (Rizzi conducting) or the 1994 Covent Garden production with Gheorghiu, Lopardo, and Nucci (Solti conducting).