Becoming Traviata (2013) |BBC Musical Awards Winner 2015

April 10th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director  Philippe Beziat

Cast: Nathalie Dessay, Jean-Francois Sivadier, Charles Castonovo, Louis Langree

108min      French/English/Italian  Music Documentary

In one of the memorable documentary highlights of 66th Festival. Philippe Béziat’s BECOMING TRAVIATA follows soprano diva Nathalie Dessay, as Violetta, through rehearsals for a new production of ‘La Traviata’ in a dreamy Provençal outdoor setting and asks: does emotion in opera come from singing, acting or music?

Opera is the perfect mix of theatre and music. BECOMING TRAVIATA offers an electrifying ‘fly on the wall’ take of key dramatic moments of Nathalie Dessay’s working relationship with her teacher, opera director, Jean-Francois Sivadier,  as they piece together their often unspoken and artistic ideas to create the perfect interpretation of Verdi’s romantic operatic tragedy.

Béziat is known for his forays into the world of musical documentaries and his talent at creating a work of art from a work of art is quite ingenious and special. I found his film so breathtaking and uplifting, it actually made me want to burst into song during the screening. The chemistry between leads Dessay and Charles Castronovo is so authentic and heartfelt that we really believe their sexual and emotional bond: their responsiveness to one another; the tenderness of touch; the sensual vibrations they evoke as a couple ‘in love’ are really extraordinary to behold and totally entrancing.

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Opera director Jean-Francois Sivadier’s guidance is full of exhuberance and subtlety as he reworks and gesticulates with Dessay and Castronovo, often in total silence, enhancing and accentuating the magical alchemy of movement and expression that leads to perfection.  Béziat catches the myriad expressions and mercurial thoughts that flash over Sivadier’s face like quicksilver – Dessay reflects these immediately in her gestures and emotions, as together they build a soaring performance ringing every last drop of joy, passion, pain and heartache out of the tragedy of love and loss, that is ‘Traviata’.

Louis Langrée’s masterful direction of the London Symphony Orchestral accompaniment is ebullient, relaxed and easy.  It’s so inspiring to watch these strikingly talented professionals at the top of their game, honing their skills and yet somehow making it all look so easy. Béziat decides not to show us the final production but by the end, we have witnessed every single thought, reflection, and nuance of emotion required in the creative process and feel an integral part of this soaring production. MT

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