(Kopie 1)
05.09.2021 07:54

“La Traviata” under the magnifying glass - “L’ultimo sogno” by Carlo Ciceri

“L’ultimo sogno” by Carlo Ciceri is a stand-alone work scored for small forces based on Verdi’s opera. Violetta experiences her life in a feverish flashback. This dramatic realignment takes nothing away from the captivating character of “La Traviata” – on the contrary.

The composer Carlo Ciceri, born in Italy and now based in Switzerland, has created “L’ultimo sogno — Annäherung an ‘La Traviata’” for the Staatstheater Kassel. Commissioned by General Music Director Francesco Angelico, this is much more than simply a chamber version of the opera that was originally scheduled to be performed complete, reconfigured for corona times. Ciceri’s intensification of Verdi’s score leaves the vocal parts in their original form, but reduces some of the applause-generating final effect. But it is precisely this applause which is food for a singer’s soul, especially at a time when she so seldom has the opportunity to thrill an audience.

Nevertheless Ciceri’s decision remains true to the drama of the original. As in Verdi’s score, his title figure Violetta Valéry is doomed not only musically, but also dramatically from the very first second, as she experiences the events of the opera in flashback as a feverish dream. Violetta, dying of lung disease, dreams her last, the dream of her own life. Although she sings her world-famous melodies in the work, the newly-composed orchestral and choral parts transport it into the realm of the fateful. Violetta’s aria “Sempre libera” does reach its final note – but in a sudden pianissimo which ends by dying away instead of furiously. Ciceri places Verdi’s work under a magnifying glass, as the virus has done with so many social ills – opera as a temporally stretched-out dying in one act. Verdi’s transfigured melody in the divided violins at the beginning of the prelude subsequently becomes the musical symbol for dying in the repetition at the opening of the original third act.

L’ultimo sogno ends with a question mark. Ciceri denies his protagonist the anticipated final note. Violetta’s last surge of life after the return of her beloved Alfredo remains on the first syllable of the fortissimo expression of joy; in a long diminuendo the chorus and orchestra extract the breath of life from her.

Right at the beginning of his arrangement, Ciceri’s extended swathes of sound bathe Verdi’s “La Traviata” in a fateful, yet fascinatingly sombre light which illuminates the artistic power particularly inherent in the music – to lend a comforting and affirmative expression to the inevitable death.

Olaf A. Schmitt

Stage photo: Nils Klinger, Maren Engelhardt as La Traviata