There’s not a cloud in the sky above piazza San Marco in Venice as Hershey Felder and his troupe don nineteenth-century costumes and stride beneath the impressive stone arches. Their destination is Caffè Florian, the coffee shop extraordinaire dating back to 1720, on day two of filming the musical film, The Verdi Traviata.
The gilded mouldings, red velvet settees and marble table tops frame an emotionally charged scene in which Giuseppe Verdi is forced to face facts about the debacle of the premiere of his La traviata, which took place at the lagoon city’s opera house on March 6, 1853. Now, 169 years later, Felder is bringing Verdi back to the screen amid the very calli and campi once frequented by the northern Italian composer.
Today’s shoot follows on from day scenes manoeuvring gondolas on the innermost canals and nocturnal ones filmed outside La Fenice, in which Felder’s Verdi pensively considers his “middle period” production and the state of his two most precious relationships, with Giuseppina Strepponi, played by Gianna Corbisiero, and the composer’s librettist, Francesco Maria Piave, played by J. Anthony Crane. Both actors accompany Felder at Caffè Florian in a tableau of quiet concentration as the experienced crew, all Italian, set up the cameras, lighting and boom among the tiny raffia-woven chairs typical of Venice.
Venice is not the only star of this latest musical film produced and directed by Hershey Felder. Historical accuracy is in abundance due to two days invested in filming at Villa Verdi, in Sant’Agata in Busseto, near Piacenza, where the composer had his home built in the 1870s and where he resided until his death. The villa remains largely unchanged as a house museum filled with Verdi’s personal items.
In addition, the Canada-born producer stayed close to his adopted home roots in Florence through magnificent takes shot at Palazzo Borghese in via Ghibellina. Stood beneath an ornately painted dome, Felder’s Verdi energetically conducts a full orchestra from the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino as the cracks begin to show and the singers descend into debauchery, while the timeless notes of La traviata are elevated and accentuated by the grand surroundings.
The Verdi Traviata will be aired on March 27. Two weeks of viewing with single ticket purchase. Subscription viewing through December 31, 2022.