If you have a curiosity about how that deliciously fragrant and sumptuous sausage we call opera is made, director Phillippe Beziat’s documentary (⋆⋆½) glides backstage at Aix-en-Provence, where Jean-Francois Sivadier is readying his 2011 production of “La Traviata.” Sivadier may be the stage director, but the star of this film (and the opera) is French coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay.
Beziat’s camera reportedly initially irritated Dessay. She told the Los Angeles Times that she didn’t want the filmmakers invading her process. Beziat pulled back to a more comfortable distance, but it is still close enough to capture Dessay — who has talked about leaving opera for straight acting — as her unvarnished self. She’s a mensch when it comes to putting in her work on the production.
The film can be a little talky, thanks to Sivadier’s propensity to explain character, intent, motion — all those things that don’t matter when you’re watching the finished product.
Opera lovers may feel frustrated by all the grinding and process, here presented without the delicious payoff (there is no footage from the finished production). However, watching Dessay work as a real human being and not a glittering vocal princess is a fascinating treat. (June 28-July 4, St. Anthony Main, 115 SE. Main St., Mpls.)