So La Cieca can only assume at this point that Franco Zeffirelli wants to spare his family the expense of an elaborate funeral, because he does seem to be going out of his way to alienate not only colleagues but the public as well. Now the legendary stage director has protested the appearance of popular soprano Daniela Dessì in “his” Traviata, complaining that she lacks the proper physique du rôle!
The last two weeks of December, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma scheduled a major revival of Zeffirelli’s well-received 2007 production of La traviata, a series of performances that attracted great attention because they were to feature Dessì’s European role debut as Violetta. (She has sung this central role once before, back in the early 1990s, but only in Japan.)
Now, we don’t get a lot of appearances by Dessì here in the US, but in Italy she is a great favorite: her role debut as Norma last season was major news there. So it seems perverse almost to the point of lunacy on the part of Zeffirelli to blackball her casting as Violetta on the basis of appearance. According to a comment by Dessì’s partner Fabio Armiliato on the blog OperaClick,
Le motivazioni sollevate in questa circostanza da Franco Zeffirelli per la TRAVIATA sono nuovamente relative SOLO all’aspetto fisico: questa volta rivolte nei confronti di Daniela Dessì, la cui “fisicità” non rispecchierebbe l’idea del maestro per il personaggio di Violetta Valery!!!
We are further informed that last year Zeffirelli protested the casting of Armiliato as Canio — citing the same issue of “fisicità.” The Italian tenor was replaced on that occasion by Stuart Neill.
Here is La Dessì earlier this year as Adriana Lecouvreur: