La Traviata Remixed (Video from Grachtenfestival Amsterdam)
La Traviata Remixed
The young Dutch director Lotte de Beer leads the courageous opera company „Operafront“ which is based in Amsterdam. Only a couple of months ago she contacted me to collaborate on a „La Traviata“ Remix, a modernization of the well-known and probably most famous Verdi-opera.
What we did first was making an extremely short version of the piece lasting about 88 minutes. Then I decided about a new orchestration that could be done with a smaller ensemble. In the new version Violeta was supposed to be a rather superficial party girl who falls in true love for the first time, gets paid by the rich father of her love to keep away from his son and then dies of Aids. Ok, this is the same story as Verdi’s, just told with a contemporary angle, so I needed instruments like Electric Guitar, DJ-Beats and a more versatile sound than the more string ensemble based Verdi original.
Once the orchestration was ready I involved my talented student, Jacopo Salvatori (a fantastic composer by himself) to do the first draft of the orchestration, as I was still involved in two work-heavy productions and simply didn’t have enough time to do everything by myself. Then I worked intensely on a second draft, introducing more liberties like new harmonies, side voices, variations. The Gebrueder Teichmann (2 excellent Electro-DJ’s from Berlin) then were asked to provide beats for certain spots which I thought needed them.
It was a lot of fun to find hidden traits in Verdi’s music which could be transformed into Ska or Reggae rhythms for example, or to change harmonies to give an aria a completely new character.
Purists will of course have a lot of problems with this, but to them I say that we are not really talking about an endangered piece of music here. The world knows hundreds of Wagner pastiches and mash-ups, and his original operas are of course still played. But strangely enough very little has been done with Verdi’s music, not even parodies.
So I would recommend: If you want to see your nice 19th century „Traviata“ as your grandfather knew it just go to any opera house in your vicinity, chances are good that they will play it at some point.
But if you feel adventurous and like experimentation and variation (or are young and have never been to an opera house because you were scared of tenors) then go see our „Traviata Remixed“. It is currently presented in Amsterdam until this Saturday with a young ensemble conducted by the great Steven Sloane.
It will also be on in Vienna, end of next month (September).