When the mood at the festival has reached its climax and everyone begins to sing Giuseppe Verdi's indestructible drinking song, Alfredo Germont puts on the violet of Lent and lifts the chalice as if it contained altar wine.

It will not be long before this hubris is followed by a more cautious approach to religious symbols.

Because Violetta, the title character in Giuseppe Verdi's opera "La Traviata", is terminally ill, huge X-rays of her tuberculous lungs leave no doubt about it.

And so she keeps her distance even in the party world of the first act, as director Karsten Wiegand shows him in the Staatstheater Darmstadt in his production of Giuseppe Verdi's melodrama, which premiered in Venice in 1853, singing her coloraturas on the bridge in front of the orchestra pit.

These are distinctive, powerful images with many Christian connotations, which Wiegand, as in his 2011 production at the Nationaltheater Weimar, contrasts with the really earthly goings-on in Francesco Maria Piave's libretto based on the novel "La Dame aux camélias" by Alexandre Dumas.

When Violetta, the Parisian courtesan, retires to the country with Alfredo, a huge painting with motifs of paradise by Hieronymus Bosch dominates the wide open stage of the Darmstadt Great House;

likewise the trees of life and knowledge tower into the scene.

Even a droll wooden flock of sheep adorns the heavenly place that Violetta briefly finds here.

As is well known, happiness does not last long, Alfredo's father succeeds in persuading her to give up the relationship, which is not befitting of his son, for the sake of family honor.

Verdi credits the father with the most sensitive aria in the opera, in Wiegand's view the renunciation could also be motivated by the fact that Violetta recognizes the father as the son she loves and who looks almost deceptively like him here.

A dynamic staging

The staging is not only equipped by her pictures, but driven forward, whereby the imagery can turn out to be increasingly disturbing.

When Violetta returns to Parisian society, the chorus wears clown faces.

She herself appeared with a bull's head in her hands and is visually compared with the dying animal, as if lying on the ground in an ailing state - the man dominates in this fight as well.

Against this background, the third act, her death and her conciliatory meeting again with Alfredo, can only develop in the sphere of the dream.

As rich in associations as Wiegand's direction may be in his own stage design and with the help of the classic elegance of Alfred Mayerhofer's costumes, it never seems static, but rather keeps the fatal events on the wide-open scene flowing as inevitably as Johannes did in the premiere Zahn, the first Kapellmeister of the Staatstheater Darmstadt, succeeded.

Born in Munich in 1990 and successful in 2020 as the second prizewinner at the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Competition in Frankfurt, he countered the visual power of the staging with an often fine, reserved and internalized orchestral accompaniment.

He flexibly corrected individual imprecisions in the coordination with the stage, especially in cooperation with the gentlemen of the Darmstadt Opera Choir.

The approach of the conductor, who took over the premiere on behalf of the ailing Darmstadt general music director Daniel Cohen, corresponded well with the profile that the Israeli soprano Hila Baggio gave the Violetta.

The figurative furor of the first act, which was somewhat neglected, was followed by a mature introspection of this character, which in the last act certainly not only aroused the pity of her friend Flora Bervoix (Solgerd Isalv), who was staged on stage.

In addition, the Colombian tenor Andrés Agudelo, a member of the ensemble of the Staatstheater Kassel, did not manage to reach eye level with a wealth of meaningless gestures and a tenorally template-like approach that often seemed forced.

The Georgian baritone Aluda Todua performed the role of father Giorgio Germont with a nobler sound, but not necessarily more versatile in the vocal design, while the smaller solo parts of the social scenes were reliably cast by members of the Staatstheater Darmstadt.

La Traviata, Staatstheater Darmstadt, next performances on February 5th, 10th and 25th and on March 3rd, 16th and 26th.