In Becoming Traviata, the star’s a repetiteur

In Becoming Traviata, the star’s a repetiteur


norman lebrecht

October 11, 2013

The arthouse movie on the making of an opera with Natalie Dessay had its debut at the London Film Festival last night.

becoming traviatabecoming traviata2



When the camera was not electrified by Ms Dessay, it was trained on the rather self-satisfied director  or on fairly trivial details of stage preparation. The eye strayed from its intended object. One saw that the London Symphony Orchestra needed to upgrade its warm-climate wardrobe. Louis Langrée, the conductor, managed simultaneous communication in French, Italian, English and music.

All very impressive,often riveting. The reviews have been kind, the box-office deadly. The film has grossed (I’m not sure the verb is appropriate here) $6,282 in the US.

For my companion and me, the most compelling scene showed the production repetiteur, a young Italian woman, giving an exposition to a young singer of the famous clarinet solo with such passion and knowledge that Verdi himself would have applauded.

The repetiteur is mentioned nowhere in the credits. Can anyone identify her? She ought to be working at one of the top houses.

See the film for yourselves when it’s released in the UK this winter, and watch out for that inspiring repetiteur.


UPDATE; Mutual friends identify her (with her permission) as Roberta Ferrari, working at La Fenice in Venice and at the Aix festival.


roberta ferrari


  • Leslie says:

    It’s not been shown near me. I’m hoping the video store can get the DVD.

  • Paul Ricchi says:

    I saw this on an Air France flight in May. I cannot judge it objectively because Dessay is in it. I was watching it through love goggles.

  • Una says:

    Something to look forward to get over Christmas 🙂 Thanks, one of my favourite operas of all. Been in 84 performances in the chorus of Kent in English and Scottish Opera in Italian. Never ever got tired of it, and loved the ENO production last night, even though it was cut and I was in the minorit it seems.

  • Nice that you mention the repetiteur. It’s really the most misunderstood and undervalued profession in the operatic creative process and is generally paid peanuts. You should not only speak but be able to coach in at least Italian, German, French and English (Russian and Czech are rarer), give stylistic guidelines, musical corrections, help the conductor with balance and accompany stage rehearsals, often seated in a different time zone to where the conductor is standing yet be expected to be perfectly together with him/her. It’s not a profession for those hungry for fame, wealth and recognition but is very rewarding for those who enjoy being supportive and helpful. It’s poorly paid pretty much everywhere as repetiteurs have no union representation and don’t appear on stage, hence are deemed unimportant or easily replaceable. Sad, but true.

  • David Boxwell says:

    How stunningly original: staging Trav as metatheater. Not.

  • Roberto says:

    Anyway, the repetiteur’s name is Roberta Ferrari, she works at “La Fenice” theater in Venice, Italy.You can easily find her on FB…..

  • Sarah says:

    That’s the total gross?? Seriously?

  • m2n2k says:

    My wife and I had the pleasure of contributing to this documentary’s total gross a few months ago and our impression was very similar to that of Norman and his companion. The Italian pianist’s highly enthusiastic explanation was educational and inspiring. There was too much of the self-important director. The tenor Charles Castronovo was very good. Most importantly, seeing and hearing Natalie Dessay work was consistently interesting and quite exciting.