Sofia Coppola's La Traviata to set Opera of Rome back on song

In a major coup for the venue, the American film director, along with costumes by Valentino will add allegria to a new production of Verdi’s classic

The American film director Sofia Coppola is to make her opera debut this year with a production of La Traviata, at the Opera of Rome – a star-studded coup for the beleaguered venue, which has long been overshadowed by La Scala in Milan.

Coppola, the director of Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides, will team up with the fashion designer Valentino for the production of Verdi’s masterpiece. He asked Coppola to join the project after he watched her 2006 film Marie Antoinette.

Noting Coppola’s “distinctive sensitivity and musical aesthetic” and her ability to balance “the classic and the modern”, the Rome Opera Foundation’s general manager, Carlo Fuortes, said the production of La Traviata would take inspiration from the world of film.

Nathan Crowley will design the production – the Englishman won acclaim for his work on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – while the stage costumes for the main characters will be designed and produced by Valentino and his team.

“The new Traviata [is] a momentous event, as well as one of the first projects supported by the Fondazione Valentino Garavani and [president of the Valentino fashion house] Giancarlo Giammetti,” Fuortes said. The production is scheduled to premiere on 24 May.

Valentino’s foundation is financially supporting the production.
Valentino’s foundation is financially supporting the production. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

The announcement follows a difficult period for the Opera of Rome, which has long struggled by comparison with La Scala and in 2014 suffered a setback after the renowned Italian conductor Riccardo Muti pulled two productions because of various conflicts. The decision came months after threats of industrial action nearly derailed the opening night of a performance of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, which was conducted by Muti and directed by his daughter, and several other strike threats and protests.

Even Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, acknowledged at the time that he understood the reasons behind Muti’s decision, and complained that necessary changes to the culture of Italian opera were being “obstructed”.

But the opera house appeared to turn a corner last year after an infusion of €15m (£12m) in January that – at least for the time being – ended years of losses and fights with employee unions.

Fuortes said at a press conference last year the theatre had become an emblem, “a metaphor for an Italy that did not work, that was bogged down with problems”.

The production of La Traviata is being financially supported by Valentino’s foundation, the latest in a string of artistic and infrastructure endeavours to get financial aid from the private sector, and particularly the fashion industry.

Bulgari, the Rome-based jeweller, has donated €1.5m for the restoration of Rome’s landmark Spanish steps, while the chairman of Tod’s shoes, Diego Della Valle, doled out €25m on the Colosseum. Fendi also paid €2.18m to restore the Trevi fountain.

The music in the May production of La Traviata is to be directed by maestro Jader Bignamini, the associate director of the Verdi Orchestra in Milan, and will star Francesca Dotto and Maria Grazia Schiavo, alternating in the role of Violetta. Antonio Poli and Arturo Chacón-Cruz will alternate in the role of Alfredo.

Opera of Rome plans 15 performances from 24 May to 30 June 2016.


Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome

The GuardianTramp

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