La Traviata—the tragedy of the noble courtesan, a soul far finer than the society that condemns her. Verdi was flying in the face of the censors when he insisted that this “immoral” tale be enacted in modern dress. And sure enough, for the premiere in Venice, the action was pushed back to the supposedly more licentious age of (wait for it) Cardinal Richelieu. That dodge was temporary, however, and today we think of La Traviata primarily as a period piece of Verdi’s own mid 19th century. For the latest production at the Paris Opera, Simon Stone, the edgy director from Australia, has taken the modern-dress idea one logical giant step further. Maestro Verdi, meet Kim Kardashian! Stone’s new Traviata gives us Violetta as the queen bee of the social network, in the words of one critic, “an influencer, an ‘it-girl.’” Stepping out for her debut in this most coveted of roles, the winning Pretty Yende, of South Africa, has been cheered to the rafters. (She alternates with Nino Machaidze, of Tblisi, Georgia.) —M.G.
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