It’s a tale as old as time: girl meets boy, boy’s father disapproves, girl dies of tuberculosis. Michael Mayer’s Traviata seems intent on Disney-fying the opera, complete with neobaroque costumes in eye-searing brocade. The entire stage is encased in gold filigree, literally encasing the singers within a gilded cage. Subtle it may not be, but it manages to even outdo the Met’s old Zeffirelli production in its sheer gaudiness.

Nadine Sierra (Violetta)
© Marty Sohl | Met Opera

More concerning than the aesthetics is the lack of any meaningful direction, further obstructed by the massive bed at the centre of the stage. Try as they might, the singers have no options beyond gingerly manoeuvring their way around the furniture, or sitting on the edge of the bed in moments of true desperation. It’s doubly a shame, because Nadine Sierra’s impressive, often thrilling singing as Violetta deserved far better.

Luca Salsi (Germont) and Nadine Sierra (Violetta)
© Marty Sohl | Met Opera

Sierra’s voice has grown into a full lyric soprano, easily filling the auditorium with rich, lustrous tone flecked with just the right amount of vulnerability. Her coloratura remains dazzling, and it’s especially thrilling to hear such an ample voice navigating the Act 1 fiorature with ease. But it’s the later acts in which she really shines, soaring over the orchestra with seemingly endless breath. Sierra has an innate sense of style and line that recalls Italian sopranos of the past, with decadent rubatos that fall on just the right side of indulgence. It’s a shame that she was saddled with such an amateurish production – given the right director, she could easily become one of the great Violettas of our time.

Luca Salsi (Germont) and Stephen Costello (Alfredo)
© Marty Sohl | Met Opera

It’s a shame, as well, that she showed so little chemistry with either of her stage partners. As Alfredo, Stephen Costello started off sounding small-scale and stiff, though he steadily improved throughout the evening culminating in a “Parigi, o cara” with tender, bronzed tone. Again, Mayer’s production served him no favours, requiring him to fling himself around the stage and cower like a petulant toddler. 

Luca Salsi was more successful as Germont, his blunt and forceful a good fit for the petty bourgeois values of the character. But without a good legato, “Di provenza il mar” didn’t land as it should, and the latter part of the scene felt far longer than it should. The smaller roles were well cast, with Siphokazi Molteno lighting up the stage as a particularly charismatic Flora.

Nadine Sierra (Violetta)
© Marty Sohl | Met Opera

The true star of the production was Daniele Callegari, who drew out absolutely ravishing playing from the always-excellent Met orchestra in the two preludes. His tempi were swift without feeling rushed, and brought a welcome jolt of drama to the evening; I’ve never heard Flora’s party scene sound so menacing. If only the production had done the same!

**111