The dream-team combination of Plácido Domingo in the pit with Franco Zeffirelli as set-designer and director pays handsome dividends in this compelling live recording of La Traviata
. The 2002 staging is from the intimate Teatro Giuseppe Verdi in the composer's home town of Busseto, a theatre in which promising young performers and players are often given a chance to work with more established artists. But judging from the clear, fresh voices and impressively mature stagecraft skills of both Stefania Bonfadelli and the handsome Scott Piper, they won't need a helping hand for much longer. Piper in particular has a wonderfully full, ringing tone and--heaven be praised!--a sensitive, intelligent pianissimo
. Using period costumes, a minimum of props and a few sliding Perspex panels, Zeffirelli creates a handsome, small-scale production and as a director rarely puts a foot wrong--although simply by looking you wouldn't exactly be able to guess how Violetta earns her living. The young orchestra's inexperience shows through occasionally, but Domingo's sensitive accompanying skills (after all, Alfredo is a role he has sung many times himself) compensate for this.
On the DVD: La Traviata is presented in 16:9 ratio, with LPCM Stereo, AC3 Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 sound options. The picture quality is clear without being lustrous, but the small-scale staging never feels too cramped. There is a documentary about the making of the production and the relevance of the town of Busseto in Verdi's life. The opera has subtitles available in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. --Warwick Thompson
Franco Zeffirelli directs this production of Verdi's opera, recorded live in Busseta, Parma in 2002. Stefania Bonfadelli and Scott Piper take the lead roles, with Placido Domingo conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of Fondazione Arturo Toscanini.