The starting point for Peter Mussbach’s 2003 production of La Traviata for the Aix-en-Provence festival is his knowledge, as one trained as a medical doctor, of the effects of TB on a person’s appearance. He argues that the disease produces a strange kind of beauty with the skin translucent and pale. So, here Mireille Delunsch, as Violetta, wears a white dress, a platinum wig and very pale powder throughout while everyone else is dressed in black. Couple this with a high contrast and highly dramatic lighting plot and very sparse sets and you have the essence of the “look”. The blocking and Personenregie reinforces this with Violetta often appearing to be an ethereal, not quite solid, presence surrounded by a rather coarse material world.
traviata et nous is a documentary by Philippe Béziat about the creation of the 2011 Aix Festival production of Verdi’s La Traviata. The stars are stage director Jean-François Sivadier and his leading lady, Natalie Dessay. It’s two hours long and is much more insightful than the average “making of” bonus feature. This really gets inside the heads of the director and the performers (we see a fair bit of Charles Castronovo and Ludovic Tézier as well as Dessay) as they begin to understand and then elaborate on the director’s ideas. Dessay comes across, as one would expect from her performances, as an exceptionally intelligent, thoughtful and hard working person. Sivadier too is très sympa; worlds removed from the caricature of a German Regie director ruthlessly imposing his ideas on libretto and performers alike. I found it interesting that when Sivadier is working with Dessay or Tézier French is spoken but at pretty much all other times the working language, even in a French house like Aix, is English.