La Traviata: Live in HD Transmission Transcript

ROLL-IN B: Funding / Opening Titles




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READ: Fleming Show Intro

RENÉE FLEMING:  Hello.  I’m Renée Fleming.  Violetta, the heroine of Verdi’s La Traviata was a figure audiences could really relate to when Verdi created her in 1853.  Modeled after a real-life Parisian courtesan of the 19th century, Violetta was perhaps his most intriguing female character, a woman who led a life of parties and affairs, but who was denied her chance at true love.  Violetta’s music is as complicated as her life, ranging from lightness to dark and calling for a soprano who possesses great vocal and dramatic flexibility. The role requires a singer who can convey the highs and lows that Verdi composed, as Violetta’s glittery world collapses around her.  Today, we have such a soprano in Nadine Sierra, opera’s rising star, who will take your breath away with her dazzling and fearless vocalism.  Starring opposite Nadine is the dashing tenor, Stephen Costello as Alfredo, the naïve and impulsive suitor, who initially offers Violetta a chance at a new life. Powerful baritone, Luca Salsi is Alfredo’s judgmental father, Giorgio Germont, who won’t allow his son to love a courtesan.  Theirs is a triangle made for tragedy.  Maestro Daniele Callegari is ready to go to the pit.  Here is La Traviata.

Stage Manager Cue: Maestro to the pit

STAGE MANAGER:  Maestro, to the pit, please.  Maestro, to the pit.



INTERVIEW: Fleming w/ Nadine Sierra

RENÉE FLEMING:  I’m sorry, I’m thrilled.  That was really exciting.  Oh boy.

NADINE SIERRA:  It’s (indiscernible) –

RENÉE FLEMING:  That was amazing.

NADINE SIERRA:  Thank you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Nadine, that was so spectacular.

NADINE SIERRA:  Thank you. 

RENÉE FLEMING:  Oh my gosh, and you had so many (indiscernible) – so many gorgeous things.

NADINE SIERRA:  Oh thank you, thank you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  So what a thrilling way to end the act, and so, when you’re tossing off the coloratura fireworks, what are you focusing on and are – can you, can you lose yourself in the moment?  Are you still thinking?

NADINE SIERRA:  No, I, I think you can lose yourself in the moment, but okay.  I really tried to have a balance of both –


NADINE SIERRA: -- to look like I’m losing myself in the moment.


NADINE SIERRA:  But also, to make sure that vocally, you know how it is, just to have that laser focus, be sure I get all of the notes I need –


NADINE SIERRA:  -- in my breath as well –


NADINE SIERRA:  Because that can also kind of get carried away with the person.  But, uh, I think it’s a balance of both.  I try my best.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Oh come on.  That’s, that’s like, amazing.

NADINE SIERRA:  I try my best.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Yeah.  I think you’re there, I think you’re there.

NADINE SIERRA:  Thank you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  As the opera progresses, Violetta’s depth as a character is revealed.  So how do you tackle the emotional and vocal complexity of the role as it progresses?

NADINE SIERRA:  I, you know, I think about myself.  I’m now a 34 year old woman.  I’ve gone through a lot of different things in life, different relationships, different experiences.  And I, I too, as a person, I’ve grown a lot, so I take whatever I’ve learned and grown from from my life, and I try to instill it in the way I play Violetta, to show that emotional intelligence and maturity from my – literally, my own perspective as a human being.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Ah, so many great sopranos have taken on this role.


RENÉE FLEMING:  I mean, do you draw inspiration from the singers who came before you?

NADINE SIERRA:  I mean, there are so many.  Um –


NADINE SIERRA:  You know, there’s one in particular, I, I watch her a lot for bel canto technique.


NADINE SIERRA:  I said it once before, it’s – her name is Mariella Devia.  And she’s an Italian soprano.


NADINE SIERRA:  And just – she’s very stoic in the way she, she gives these roles, because she’s very focused on the technique.  But that really helps me, I have to say, just gathering myself, when I do feel myself kind of getting ahead of everything.

RENÉE FLEMING:  I heard her sing live once.  She sings so incredibly well.  It’s true.

NADINE SIERRA:  Oh thank you, thank you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  So as we know, your heaviest singing is yet to come, the most dramatic part.  Do you have any show day rituals that help you get through the big singing parts of this?

NADINE SIERRA:  Yeah, yes, I, I always try, when I wake up in the morning, I either go to the gym or I have a walk outside.  You know, I try to have some kind of movement to wake up my body.  And I think it’s also just a way of getting rid of nerves, um, you know, to lead a normal life.


NADINE SIERRA:  In something that is a little bit superhuman.  But just trying to keep it as humble and to the, to the earth as possible.

RENÉE FLEMING:  So Nadine, thank you so much for speaking with me.

NADINE SIERRA:  Thank you, Renée. 

RENÉE FLEMING:  And rest up for the next act.

NADINE SIERRA:  Thank you.  Thank you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  You’re a miracle.

READ: Fleming throw to take (Violetta at the Met)

RENÉE FLEMING:  Nadine is the latest in a long line of gifted sopranos who have sung La Traviata at The Met, dating all the way back to 1883, our very first season, when Marcella Sembrich starred as the opera’s heroine.  I sang Violetta on The Met stage, too, and it was a richly rewarding experience, a kind of Mount Everest for a lyric soprano. Met Radio commentator William Berger recently visited the company archives for a look back at some of the greatest Violettas in the earlier decades of The Met’s history.

ROLL-IN C: Violetta at The Met

WILLIAM BERGER:  One of the striking aspects of the role of Violetta is that she was based on a real person who actually existed within Verdi’s time. Marie Duplessis was a courtesan. She was, in many ways, abused by the society she lived in. And in other ways, she transcended it.

One of her many admirers and lovers, Alexandre Dumas Jr., the son of the guy who wrote The Three Musketeers and all these other things we love, wrote about their relationship in a very successful novel, The Lady of the Camellias, and a play, which Verdi saw. And this was a new idea for tragic opera. It was not a great lady of the past– a queen or a noble woman or a mythological character– it was a woman of that day.

Violetta was one of the greatest roles of Maria Callas, one that we remember her to this day for, but she actually only sang it twice, two times, at the Metropolitan. Over the years, there have been many other sopranos too, who have made an indelible mark with this role.

The soprano who sang the role the most times at the Met, so far, was Licia Albanese, whose gown from the ball scene we see here. She first sang this role here in 1942 and was beloved by audiences for the passion she brought to the most tragic heroines, especially Violetta.

Previously the role had been inhabited magnificently by the American Rosa Ponselle who had been a vaudeville star, was a discovery for the Met, and Rosa Ponselle had this voice that could be truly massive at times, even though that was at odds with her appearance, which was not.

A few years after that, in 1937, Bidu Sayão, the beautiful Brazilian soprano, came and made a mark in a completely different way, just with a much more lyric voice. She was a smaller woman of absolute charm, and she brought a whole different aspect to this role.

There was a performance where hundreds, if not, I think, thousands of people, were turned away, who wanted to see her as Violetta.

In 1957, Renata Tebaldi first sang this role at the Met and Renata Tebaldi is still cherished today, just for many things, but above all, for the beauty of her voice. You really felt the sincerity of the character that came through just from the physics of the voice.

Anna Moffo from Philadelphia first sang this role for her debut at the Met. Can you imagine? At the age of 25, in 1959, with tremendous glamor, she was a star on television for many years as well. She brought out that fascination of Violetta, that we just can't stop looking at her and listening to her.

Then in 1963, the great Australian soprano Joan Sutherland sang this role at the Met and brought her stupendous talents– she was known as La Stupenda– to the role. Her bel canto technique, that coloratura, absolutely incredible. You just hung on every note. It seemed effortless for her, and then a volume of sound that had such presence and charisma. Fascinating interpretation.

All these different women and more, from the first season of the Metropolitan Opera, this opera was there in the repertory, to today. The stars of today have brought different aspects to the character and told different stories about this woman we just can't ignore.

READ: Fleming throw to tape (Designing La Traviata)

RENÉE FLEMING:  I remember listening to all of these sopranos when I was preparing the role.  Not only have there been many Violettas at The Met over the years, there have also been quite a few different Traviata productions.  Today’s staging, by Director Michael Mayer is the 11th in company history.  We spoke recently with two of Michael’s long-time collaborators, set designer Christine Jones and costume designer Susan Hilferty in Christine’s downtown studio about their design approach to this timeless drama.

ROLL-IN D: Designing La Traviata

CHRISTINE JONES:  When the audience enters the opera house, there is the image of a flower hovering in the air, and that is inspired by the title of the book, La Dame aux Camélias, which is “the lady of camellias,” that the opera is based on. So that is a camellia, and it is the image of love, it's the image of how the lifespan of love is the lifespan of a flower. And that's where we begin.

SUSAN HILFERTY:  So it begins with Violetta in her bed, and really at a moment where we realize that she's dying.

CHRISTINE JONES:  It's like the whole thing is playing out before her on her deathbed. So we imagine that this opera was as if Violetta's life and her experiences over the past year were flashing before her eyes.

SUSAN HILFERTY:  We realized in following the script that it actually fit beautifully into the seasons. And the idea of cycles –

CHRISTINE JONES:  -- and that we could use that as a shape for the different acts, and how we move through time. We start by establishing this wintery scene, and then the snow turns into petals, which takes us into spring, along with the music. And then as we arrive at Violetta's house, we're in the spring of her discovery, we're in the spring of her joy, and so all of the party goers are dressed in

SUSAN HILFERTY:  -- in the colors of spring– not just one bouquet, but a symphony, almost, of different colors. Your heart should lift when you see all of the color.

CHRISTINE JONES:  Act two takes place in the country at her country house, and she and Alfredo are in the bloom of their love. So that is represented by the idea of summer, and the stage is sprinkled with purple petals, and the walls are green and it's lush. From there, we go back to the city and it turns into the fall and into Autumn when she returns to Flora’s house –

SUSAN HILFERTY:  In which there's a festival going on outside. We made this party almost be like a –

CHRISTINE JONES:  -- like a day of the dead.

SUSAN HILFERTY:  A day of the dead party.

CHRISTINE JONES:  Yeah, death is literally at her heels.

SUSAN HILFERTY:  Exactly. She knows that –

CHRISTINE JONES:  She knows she's going to die.

SUSAN HILFERTY:  And suddenly the whole chorus and all the dancers coming into this world, feeling like they're dead leaves and, and in masks, so I feel like what we were able to do is to really turn it into someplace that really felt dangerous.




SUSAN HILFERTY:  Then of course, winter.

CHRISTINE JONES:  We go back to Violetta's home. And now she is losing her energy, she's losing her life, and she's truly on her deathbed. And winter is coming back. Winter is returning.

SUSAN HILFERTY:  Kevin Adams, the lighting designer, immediately responded to this idea, how spring leads to summer, fall, and then winter.

CHRISTINE JONES:  For the set designer, the lighting is the atmosphere, and when I first walk into a theater and see a set on stage for the first time, it's often under work light. And there's a moment of fear and trepidation. But once Kevin Adams begins to paint with light, he's the God who's bringing the seasons into the picture. He's painting spring, he's painting summer, he's painting winter, and he's giving it the soul and the spirit of this idea of a woman who is living her last few breaths. And so the set is not complete until it's touched by light.


READ: Fleming Neubauer / Toll / Throw to break

RENÉE FLEMING:  Those are two of opera’s most gifted designers.  The Met’s Live in HD Series is made possible thanks to its founding sponsor, the Neubauer Family Foundation.  Digital support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.  The Met Live in HD Series is supported by Rolex.  A later performance of La Traviata will also be heard over the Toll Brothers Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.  We’ll be back after a break.

READ: Fleming throw to tape (Making The Hours)

RENÉE FLEMING:  Welcome back.  I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to The Met’s next live cinema transmission.  It’s Kevin Puts’ brilliant new opera, The Hours, based on the celebrated novel and film, with a libretto by Greg Pierce.  We’re just a few weeks away from the premiere and the excitement in the rehearsal room is palpable.  The production, conducted by Yennick Nézet-Séguin, will be seen live in cinemas on December 10th.  Members of the cast, myself included, and the creative team recently spoke about this powerful new creation.

YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN: What I can tell you is that The Hours will never have been performed on stage before when we do it.

KEVIN PUTS:  I had, brought the idea of a new opera up with Renée Fleming and she was actually very receptive and then I, there was one project that I had an idea for. She said, you know, I'm not sure about that, but you know, what would be great--is, to do something that takes place in, different time periods, all at the same time, like The Hours.

MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM:  The story of the hours is in three parts. It is the sort of simultaneous stories of a day in Virginia Woolf’s life when she is beginning to write the novel Mrs. Dalloway, a day in the life of Mrs. Dalloway herself although I have imagined her as living today in New York City, and a woman in suburban Los Angeles who is reading Mrs. Dalloway.

YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN:  This is the LA 1950’s moment, so that’s Laura Brown.

MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM:  And they come together.

RENÉE FLEMING:  The story is so extraordinary. I mean, the fact that, Michael Cunningham took Virginia Woolf's work, Mrs. Dalloway, and put it together into this story, which spans three different periods.

KELLI O’HARA:  I remember reading it when it very first came out and being sort of enthralled by the internal story. How deep, how in depth it went.

JOYCE DIDONATO:  Because it's a universal story, even though it's different time periods, there's a housewife, lesbian, writer, all these different characters.

PHELIM MCDERMOTT:  And all those different stories have a relationship of course to Virginia and to the book. But they also have different relationships to death and to grief, in different ways, and also to lives unlived.

GREG PIERCE:  One of the challenges for this project was because there are three separate stories, not to make it feel like three short operas intertwined, but to make it feel like it’s one whole piece. So we worked really hard to try to make the voices distinct, but also make it feel cohesive.

KEVIN PUTS:  I started thinking about what you could do in music that you can't do in a film or in a book, the kind of simultaneities, the kind of overlap that can happen between these, three different women living in these three different time periods.  That you could establish the stories and then gradually begin to blur the lines and all of that is possible on the operatic stage and through music, through harmony, through notation.

PHELIM MCDERMOTT:  So we have to find an equivalence of that with the staging. creating those different worlds. But you move really fast between them.

KEVIN PUTS:  I wrote Clarissa's part for Renée because I know her so well. I've worked with her so much and. And she knows me. And so she's comfortable telling me everything, telling me every, every possible little nook and cranny that she would like, you know, can we, can we change this a little bit? And, and, um, I'm very happy to do that. There's actually nothing like it, you know, to work so closely with one of the great performers in the world. And, for her to feel like the part fits her like a glove, you know, at a certain point and it's, it's not maybe right away, but it takes some time. And so it's very gratifying to do that.

KELLI O’HARA:  I, I had a conversation via email with Michael Cunningham about this role here being his mother.

MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM:  She was a homemaker, she kept the house and raised the kids. A job for which she was enormously overqualified.

KELLI O’HARA:  There were women that really struggled. And we as a society don’t always know that, and don't pay attention to that.

JOYCE DIDONATO:  Because the character of Virginia Woolf feels very far from me. And I have to say, putting on the costume and the wig, it's like starting to put on the character. And you start to feel the weight and the heaviness, even from the style of the wig and this.  And it's kind of extraordinary how that opens a door to parts of you that maybe you don't always have time to examine, or maybe even have the courage to examine, the darker side, the side that feels more oppressed without a voice.

KEVIN PUTS:  These are, you know, people struggling with their mortality and whether or not to continue their lives. When many aspects of their lives are untenable. I didn't want to bring those stories to life in a way that was detached or abstract. I wanted that to be very real. And I want the audience to empathize with the characters.

PHELIM MCDERMOTT:  The dream of this opera is that there will be moments where people will relate to this and relate with their own stories in different ways.

JOYCE DIDONATO:  And I think by highlighting it through the different personalities, the different periods, everybody that watches it is going to be able to find a part of themselves in the story.

RENÉE FLEMING:  It’s going to be such an exciting experience and to see how the audience responds to this piece. I think it's a very different kind of piece than they’ve probably ever seen at the Met and I'm excited.

KELLI O’HARA:  I am too.


INTERVIEW: Fleming w/ Donald Palumbo

RENÉE FLEMING:  I can’t wait for you to hear the beautiful score for this new work.  The music is just breathtaking.  The chorus plays an enormous role in The Hours, so it’s a great pleasure for me to speak now with The Met’s legendary chorus master, Donald Palumbo.  So Donald, there’s so much music for the chorus to learn this season, but before we touch on that, tell me about their role in La Traviata, which is so familiar.  With each new guest conductor, how does the work for the chorus change?

DONALD PALUMBO:  Well, I think Traviata’s one of those operas that just, uh, everybody enjoys hearing it, and we enjoy singing it.  I mean, we come to work and we take part in two parties in, in one, in one opera.

RENÉE FLEMING:  There you go.

DONALD PALUMBO:  So I mean, the trick is to sound, uh, spontaneous and excited to be at this party, but yet, maintain all the rigidity and the musical discipline to really execute a very delicate score, quite frankly.  I mean, Traviata is Verdi writing for, for a Paris society scene.  And it’s so different than any other party music, uh, in Verdi.  We’re doing Rigoletto right now.


DONALD PALUMBO:  So it starts with a party as well, but that’s a big macho party with –

RENÉE FLEMING:  Different party, yeah, that’s very different.

DONALD PALUMBO:  -- a lot of very dark, uh, undertones going on there.

RENÉE FLEMING:  A little testosterone there.

DONALD PALUMBO:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

RENÉE FLEMING:  So let’s talk about their new repertoire.  How extensive is the role of the chorus in The Hours?


RENÉE FLEMING:  I was (indiscernible) –

DONALD PALUMBO:  -- as we were, as we were talking about earlier, we’re, we’re involved in the opera almost from beginning to end.  And the interesting thing that I was thinking about today – yesterday, as we were rehearsing is that we have to take on the roles of all three of the women, as, as we pass through these different places and time periods.


DONALD PALUMBO:  We’re basically voicing their inner thoughts.  So –


DONALD PALUMBO:  -- it’s very interesting that we have to take on, in a way, the character of all three of you amazing women in this opera.

RENÉE FLEMING:  It gives me a lot of subtext.  I love it, actually.  With The Met being a repertory house, how many different operas is the chorus singing right now?  And how many operas are you rehearsing at the same time?

DONALD PALUMBO:  Well, right now, for example, this evening we’ll be performing Peter Grimes, which is one of the most –


DONALD PALUMBO: -- difficult operas for the chorus, just from sheer amount of music, but also, the difficulty of the piece.  We’ve been rehearsing The Hours quite a bit this past week.  We opened Don Carlo just a couple of nights ago, which is a, a, a large opera for the chorus.

RENÉE FLEMING:  It was great.

DONALD PALUMBO:  We’re – have a final dress rehearsal of Rigoletto.  We start music rehearsals for Aida next week.  So it’s a constant, uh, a merry-go-round of one opera, one style, one composer.  So it’s, it’s never dull here, with the chorus.

RENÉE FLEMING:  And everyone sounds fresh and beautiful at 10 o’clock in the morning –

DONALD PALUMBO:  That’s the goal.

RENÉE FLEMING:  -- whenever they’re singing at night.  So Donald, The Met chorus is one of the glories of the opera world, and you are one of its artistic treasures.  Thank you for joining me today.

DONALD PALUMBO:  Thank you so much, Renée.


READ: Fleming Intro to ACT II

RENÉE FLEMING:  At the end of the first act, while Violetta has been moved by Alfredo’s outpouring of love, she is torn between the life she knows and the one he promises.  But they are destined to be together, if only for a time.  Here is Act II of Verdi’s tragedy, La Traviata.



INTERVIEW: Fleming w/ Stephen Costello & Luca Salsi

RENÉE FLEMING:  It was fabulous.

STEPHEN COSTELLO:  (indiscernible) again.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Stephen and Luca, hello.  So Alfredo and Germont clearly have a troubled relationship.  How would you describe what’s going on between them?  And start – Stephen, you start.

STEPHEN COSTELLO:  Well, I feel like it’s a frustration relationship between me and, and, uh, Germont.  I’m, I’m, I’m young.  I’m a very young guy, but I feel like I know more about life than I really do.  And my father can see where this is going for me and wants to make sure that I’m still, uh – have family, that I’m still – want to be part of the family.  He only wants the best for me, but I, I don’t realize that because I’m so in love with Violetta.


STEPHEN COSTELLO:  And that’s the only thing that really matters.

RENÉE FLEMING:  It’s just a super positive production for you.  What do you think about this, Luca?

LUCA SALSI:  I, I think it’s exactly the same relationship that you can have today with your son.  I mean, I have two boys.  I have two boys, and so I, I think you, you just try to protect him.


LUCA SALSI:  And, and, uh, to, you know, to Violetta.  Then, I understand that she’s a good girl.  But in the beginning and in, in that period, you know?


LUCA SALSI:  Uh, it was not really –

RENÉE FLEMING:  Right.  Right, yes, true.

LUCA SALSI:  -- quite good woman for my, my son –

RENÉE FLEMING:  So how about, Alfredo in terms of his relationship with Violetta?  It’s – I mean, is it frustrating for you to see that he’s not able to get past his jealousy?

STEPHEN COSTELLO:  It’s very frustrating, because you, you – in the end, obviously we know the end.  Uh, you know, she dies, but, but he realizes what, what had happened.  But it’s, it’s very hard to get through the frustration.  It’s very hard to go from that first scene, where you’re enamored, you’re in love, you’re sitting in the bed.


STEPHEN COSTELLO:  And you’re singing about all these wonderful things that you’ve done.  But and then next thing you know, you get this no, within, you know, as –


STEPHEN COSTELLO:  -- on opera time, you know, in the next five minutes.  So it’s, it’s really hard to, to get back into the frustration and then be angry.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Oh right, right, right.  Right.  And so, Luca, you’ve sung so many Verdi baritone roles in houses all over the world.  What keeps you coming back to this composer?

LUCA SALSI:  I born within 10 kilometers where he born.  You know, from, from 10 kilometers to where he’s born.  He, he born in Roncole, and (indiscernible) born in (indiscernible). 


LUCA SALSI:  So we – I breathe the same air, eat the same food.


LUCA SALSI:  And I have Verdi in my blood and I love him so much.  I love to sing him and I love his music, and I already feel it inside.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Super cantabile.  So beautiful.

LUCA SALSI:  Thank you very much.  He’s, he’s –


LUCA SALSI:  -- I, I did the 21 roles of Verdi shows, pretty –

RENÉE FLEMING:  21 roles?

LUCA SALSI:  21, 21, yeah.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Bravo.  Bravo.

LUCA SALSI:  Thank you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  So Nadine Sierra is, is really moving as Violetta.  What is it like to perform with her?

STEPHEN COSTELLO:  Oh it’s incredible.  I mean, the ease that she has, that she brings to the role.


STEPHEN COSTELLO:  I mean, we, we talked about it a little backstage, it’s just watching her.  It’s effortless, you know?


STEPHEN COSTELLO:  But at the same time, she doesn’t lose the character, and she’s –


STEPHEN COSTELLO: -- completely engaged with you the entire time, so I, I, I love it.

RENÉE FLEMING:  It’s – okay.  And, uh, Stephen, your wife, Yoon Kwon Costello is violinist at The Met orchestra and she’s playing today.


RENÉE FLEMING:  How amazing that you’re on stage performing and she’s in the pit.  What is that like?

STEPHEN COSTELLO:  Oh it’s, it’s, uh, nerve-wracking because every time we have one of these kiss scenes, I see her look up and, and so, I feel a little, uh, uh, embarrassed.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Self-conscious.

STEPHEN COSTELLO:  A little self-conscious.  Yeah, yeah, but no, it’s great.  You know, having her in, in, in the pit and having – just having that orchestra alone.  I mean, they, they just hear you, they feel you, and they, they just play so well all the time.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Yeah, they’re amazing.  They really are extraordinary.  Well, Stephen and, and Luca, thank you so much.

LUCA SALSI:  Thank you very much.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Wonderful speaking with you.

INTERVIEW: Fleming w/ Maestro Daniele Callegari

RENÉE FLEMING:  And so, now, I’m going to speak with our Conductor, Daniele Callegari.  Hello, Maestro.




RENÉE FLEMING:  (indiscernible).  Bravo, bravo.

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  Thank you very much.

RENÉE FLEMING:  And Violetta is one of the great heroines in all of opera.  So what is, what is it about Verdi’s music that makes her such a rich and sympathetic character?

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  You know, for me, and first of all is the, the quality of the melody, the quality of the melody, in every opera, I can say –


MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  -- even if we aren’t talking about the first opera I like, Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, or Un giorno di regno, you know, I feel every time something that is really personal –


MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  -- about him, uh, and first of all, the beauty, the great idea to arrive from the bel canto.



RENÉE FLEMING:  I agree so much.  I saw Don Carlo the other night, and I was absolutely bowled over by, all of those melodies and motifs.


RENÉE FLEMING:  So, and people say you need three different soprano types to sing the role of Violetta, that is true.  So “Siempre libera” requires fireworks, and another, when she begins to mature in Act II, and a third for her heartbreaking loss in Act III.  How do you describe the voice and the vocal skills required for this role?

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  You know, I don’t know which was the, the normal quality at the – at that time –


MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  -- of at the time because we have no recording.  But in the same time, especially now with artists, uh, like, um, Nadine, we have, uh, the possibility to really to, to have this huge range, and not just in terms of range of the voice –

RENÉE FLEMING:  Right, right.

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  -- but even in terms of these different skills.


MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  Which is at the beginning, like you said, is, uh, the, the agility that, uh, is necessary, but at the same time, the voice goes really low.


MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  And then, uh, on the top now, we, we do like the tradition, the E flat, and that like it is written.  But then, in the second act, you need the – a voice, let me say, um, real soprano, real soprano, lyrical, where it’s just more espressivo, or the entire life of the opera.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Much more dramatic in the second act, yeah.

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  Exactly, exactly.  And the third act, you need someone who is really able to acting.


MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  Acting with the voice.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Right, right.  The pathos –

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  Because we have a lot of, uh, recitative, where it’s important to create the motion, even without music in, in the pit.

RENÉE FLEMING:  It’s the most grateful role I ever sang, really.


RENÉE FLEMING:  Because of that, that you can show everything.

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  I know, I know.  I know.

RENÉE FLEMING:  So this is an opera The Met orchestra has played many times.  So how do you see your role in conducting such a well-known piece with an orchestra and chorus that must probably know it by heart.

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  Yeah.  They know it by heart, and, uh, it’s a really easy.  You know, it, it’s like, uh, it’s like to drive a wonderful car like a Ferrari or like a Lamborghini, you know?  When you have a great chorus and a great orchestra, you can demand to them what you feel about the score, which is completely different.  We are all different.  My colleagues are different of me, and, uh, we have, uh, different sensibilities, so –


MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  They are ready to, uh, to be, to be happy for you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  (indiscernible).

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  And to, and to create something for you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Yes. Oh that’s bravo.  I, I am – Maestro, thank you so much for speaking with me.

MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  Thank you very much.


MAESTRO DANIELE CALLEGARI:  It’s been a real pleasure.

RENÉE FLEMING:  No, mine.  Yes.

READ: Fleming Neubauer / Throw to break

RENÉE FLEMING:  So The Met’s Live in HD Series is made possible thanks to its founding sponsor, the Neubauer Family Foundation.  Digital support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.  The Met Live in HD Series is supported by Rolex.  We’ll be back after a break.

READ: Fleming PSA / Fundraising / Throw to HD season preview

RENÉE FLEMING:  Welcome back.  I think of The Met as a true artistic home.  And whether it’s a beloved classic, like La Traviata today, or a brand new opera like The Hours next month, I’m proud that this company is committed to sharing its performances with a vast global audience.  The Met’s Live in HD Cinema Series is a gift to serious opera lovers and newcomers to our art form. But as incredible as opera on the big screen can be, it’s just not the same as experiencing live opera here in the opera house.  Nothing can compare to the visceral thrill of hearing great voices soar over an orchestra.  So please come to The Met or visit your local opera company. 

This is such an exciting season for The Metropolitan Opera, with three company premieres, the most in a single season in quite some time.  I’ve been struck by how supportive the company has been of The Hours.  They have lavished so much artistic care on this moving new piece.  And as you can imagine, the financial resource required to commission and stage a new opera at the highest artistic level is very expensive. Unfortunately, ticket sales cover just a fraction of the costs.  The Met relies greatly on the generosity of audiences like you to help make up the difference.  If you’re able to make a donation to The Met, please call us at 1-800-MET-OPERA or visit us at to make a contribution.  We thank you for your support. 

The Met cinema season is in full swing with eight more movie theater transmissions coming up.  Here’s a preview.

INTERVIEW: Fleming w/ Nadine Sierra

RENÉE FLEMING:  In just a few moments, the final scene of La Traviata will unfold.  But first, I’m joined once more by our Violetta, Nadine Sierra.  So obviously you’re not the Violetta we saw earlier in the opera.


RENÉE FLEMING:  What are you thinking of as, as you prepare for this final scene?

NADINE SIERRA:  Well, everything has been a progression up until now.  And I, I kind of anyway in the, in the first act, I, I do think about her already having issues with her health.


NADINE SIERRA:  And her, at some points during the act, feeling it far more than others.


NADINE SIERRA:  So I, yeah, I guess I just keep that progression going.


NADINE SIERRA:  So that eventually, this way of looking isn’t such a shock or a surprise for the audience.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Super.  I, um, earlier in the intermission we heard from Maestro about the different vocal demands that await you in the finale.  Yeah, and now that you’ve reached the final act, can you talk about the progression vocally of the whole role?

NADINE SIERRA:  Yeah, I mean, the tessitura is different.  It does sit lower.  It is more dramatic.  Um, the orchestration is a bit heavier for Violetta, as she’s getting sicker and, and –


NADINE SIERRA:  -- her life is kind of sort of, uh, being destroyed right before her eyes.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Despair, yeah.

NADINE SIERRA:  Yeah, a lot of despair.  But, you know what?  Renée, I, I try not to think of her as like, having those different voices.  I just try to keep everything the same.


NADINE SIERRA:  So that I don’t tire myself out, because I don’t want to manipulate my sound.  I don’t want to manufacture it.  And even now, you know, what I’m about to sing, it, it is much heavier, but I’m not going to try to push or try to overcompensate because, um –

RENÉE FLEMING:  You don’t need to.  You have the whole range.

NADINE SIERRA:  -- it’s not worth it.  Yeah, yeah.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Dramatic, the, the –

NADINE SIERRA:  Yeah, I try, I try.  And I think, as long as that focus is there –


NADINE SIERRA:  -- it’s, it’s bearable to get through.

RENÉE FLEMING:  Well, Nadine, brava.  I think they’re tuning, and toi, toi, toi for this final act.

NADINE SIERRA:  Thank you.  Thank you.

RENÉE FLEMING:  I’m going to cry with you.

NADINE SIERRA:  Thank you.

READ: Fleming Intro to Act III

RENÉE FLEMING:  Sorry, um, sorry, I’m back.  In Acts I and II, we witnessed the tragic trajectory of Vi – Violetta’s life as it starts to shatter.  Now, betrayed and humiliated by the one she’s truly loved, Violetta is isolated as she waits to die.  Here is the devastating conclusion of La Traviata.