Following a savagely-reviewed opening night packed with conducting cock-ups, Leonard Slatkin departed the the Met's recent La traviata after just one performance. In an interview with Mark Stryker of Detroit Free Press, he explains for the first time Angela Gheorghiu's part in the debacle.
"Slatkin did not completely absolve himself from blame and admitted he made mistakes opening night. But what he called Gheorghiu's "unprofessional behavior" -- blocking his view of other singers, taking outrageous liberties that went beyond liberal notions of expressive phrasing, entering early and ignoring cut-offs -- so unnerved him that he lost his cool in the second act.
"It rarely happens to me, but I got thrown," said Slatkin. "All of a sudden, I was saying, 'What the hell is going on?' and there were places where I knew I was wrong, but I didn't know what to do. I was pretty much up in the air.
"At the end of the second act, there is a big ensemble number. It is one place where everybody needs to look at the conductor. They're all holding notes and I give the cut-offs. She held on past everybody on every one. I can't say it was on purpose because I don't know. But it was not in league at all with what anybody else was doing. There was no feeling of cohesion." ................Slatkin said Gheorghiu was spot-on at early rehearsals but trouble began when he stepped beyond music and made a suggestion about the staging of her character's death scene. After Violetta dies, Slatkin proposed that to animate the final bars, the last gesture should be left to Alfredo, who would look up to God as if to say, "Why me?"
"Angela was having none of that," said Slatkin. "The last gesture should be hers. It didn't seem like a big thing at the time, but I think it was.".........................Gheorghiu later skipped a key rehearsal claiming fatigue and at the dress rehearsal, said Slatkin, "went off the charts" -- singing flat, missing entrances and distorting phrases beyond recognition. Slatkin faults Met management for not stepping in to broker a musical resolution.
"If we still couldn't work it out, then one of us would have had to go, but it should have happened after the dress rehearsal," he said...............................Slatkin went to see Gheorghiu just before the performance to ask if there was anything specific she wished him to do. He said she mentioned two spots in the score but otherwise told him to "listen and watch." The first act went fine, he said, but in the second she reverted to her dress rehearsal behavior.
"I was so focused on trying to keep together with her, I forgot about other people on stage at times," said Slatkin."