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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet another La Traviata, but worth it for Renée Fleming, 14 April 2011
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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Renée Fleming has matured into one of the finest sopranos around at the moment, a true star with a sparkling personality and a velvet-toned voice that is capable of wringing the finest emotions out of works by Strauss and Tchaikovsky that from a lesser singer could sound rather cold and clinical. I wouldn't have thought her voice would be so well suited to Violetta Valéry in La Traviata, and it does take some getting used to, but I think she at least brings a distinct quality to the role with an emotional heart that isn't always necessarily there when a leading diva uses it primarily as a display for her vocal talents. It's served well also by Antonio Pappano's conducting of the Royal Opera House Orchestra in a traditional, but effective production by Richard Eyre.

There's only one way to really measure the true performance of La Traviata however, and that is by the qualities of the soprano. Renée Fleming does seem a little faltering in the first act, the warm enveloping richness of her tone perhaps not quite bringing out the clarity of the Italian diction. The production also seems a little disjointed in Act 1, setting up the great arias well (and is there any opera that has quite so many memorable, technically and dramatically impressive arias?), but not really sure what to do with the performers in between. Fleming's 'È strano ...ah forsè'lui' however is excellent, the soprano most definitely singing it her own way, putting a different complexion and personal interpretation on the opera.

If Act I doesn't flow as well as one might hope, Act II however is superb in every respect - singing, dramatic representation, the precision and timing of the orchestration all played to perfection in both scenes. Fleming's duet with Hampson's Germont Sr., 'Ah! Dite alla giovine', is technically stunning, but at the same time full of heartfelt emotion. I've rarely seen it done so well and it's capable of leaving you dead in your tracks. Much as I sometimes find Act III a little gruelling in this opera, here it also comes across with great emotional force, again primarily down to Fleming's superb acting talent, but also to how well she blends with Joseph Calleja. Calleja is a tenor very much in the classic mould of a Pavarotti or Domingo, and as such is perfectly suited to a role such as Alfredo. There is some maturing to be done in his voice, and he certainly doesn't have the personality or range of the greats, but his voice has a beautiful tone and blends well with Fleming here.

It's hard then to find fault with the production or the performances, but there are so many versions of La Traviata out there that a new version really needs something special to entice you into reconsidering it anew (such as in the Willy Decker fascinating production with Anna Netrebko - Verdi: La Traviata). This is a straightforward, traditional, period staging - it doesn't add anything new, it doesn't make the viewer reconsider the whole tone of the piece or allow them to plunge into its emotional heart - but it has Renée Fleming, and it's worthwhile for that alone. Other than for Fleming however, one can't help but feel that this would indeed be just another La Traviata.

The quality of the Blu-ray release is good, but not great. The lighting is rather soft, so it doesn't have the clarity you might expect, but it does seem to capture a sense of the ambience of Covent Garden. The audio likewise doesn't really have a full depth of tone. The violins dominate, but feel slightly detached from the rest of the orchestration in the 5.1 mix, only occasionally achieving the thunderous tone that is often demanded. The PCM stereo mix however is excellent and may be the better option. The extras on the disc consists of a worthwhile 21-minute interview of Fleming by Pappano, where the soprano acknowledges the personal challenges the role represents, and describes her technical approach.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to find fault with this production, 1 Mar 2012
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
I watched this production on SkyHD, and enjoyed it so much, was prompted to buy the DVD. The whole production is wonderful, the sets, the costumes but above all the singing. Renee Fleming is sublime, the tenor Joseph Calleja is a wonderful Alfredo, and who could fault Thomas Hampson, the most amazing baritone. There are certainly many La Traviata's out there, but this is definitely one for the collection. A pure gem. Enjoy !
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fleming never better, 4 Feb 2012
By 
I. Zaneres (west midlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
The opening set is reasonable, though not exciting, the costumes are in keeping with my idea of the period. Fleming sings this role as if she is completely at home with the character, this is the best role in which I have heard her. Caleja is quite an exciting tenor. In their first duet their mutual passion is completely credible.
In act 2 Caleja sings beautifully in a country kitchen, when Hampson joins in his fine baritone cajoles and slightly threatens as he makes his case. Violetta tugs the heartstrings as she expresses her love for Alfredo. The father and son confrontation is quite well done.
In scene 2 the opening party is alright, but not too exciting. The following drama is good culminating in an excellent ensemble.
Act three finds a very poorly Violetta with some graphic signs of her illness. Her performance is very moving, and moves inexorably to the final ensemble and tragedy.
I have hovered between 4 and 5 stars as this is better than Gruberova at La Fenice, but falls short of McLaughlin at Glyndebourne, on sets and particularly with Brent Ellis as Germont. Having said that, I am pleased to have them both in my collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent Calleja, 1 Mar 2012
By 
Vivian C Gatt (St Julians, Malta) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
The whole cast of La Traviata was excellent but one shone more than the others and that was Joseph Calleja.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal preferences will probably be the deciding factors when choosing between Fleming and Gheorghiu, 21 Nov 2011
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This recording of La Traviata, made at the Royal Opera on two dates in 2009, is essentially a traditional production and features a top calibre cast under the expert baton of Antonio Pappano. The production by Richard Eyre, slightly re-vamped, is essentially the same as that recorded for Gheorghui's first recording with Solti conducting in 1994 and regularly revived ever since.

The current recording provides a particularly strong characterisation of Giorgio Germont given by Thomas Hampson. He has the maturity for the part while still retaining the strength of voice which gives this difficult role the required authority, although morally doubtful, that can often descend to mere bullying. This is a notable portrayal and one good reason for considering this recording.

The next good reason is the musically satisfying portrayal of Alfredo by Joseph Calleja. He voice has the tonal characteristics that blend well with those of Fleming and together they make a convincing vocal partnership.

Renee Fleming reprises the role she made just a few years earlier with Villazon and she demonstrates a rather more emotionally developed portrayal of the role. Although of more mature years than that of the role she has nevertheless retained an astonishing level of youthfulness and beauty in her personal appearance that reduces the obvious age gap between herself and Alfredo to a remarkable degree. Her voice has a creaminess that is very attractive and she is able to act the role well and it is in that respect that, in my opinion, she demonstrates the development over her earlier portrayal with Villazon.

The orchestra responding to the inspiration and guidance of Pappano has made enormous improvements over the years and now is second to none. On this recording there is a thrilling intensity and forward momentum to the performance that is typical of Pappano's expert operatic grip.

The recording is very good and is typical of the high standards that one might have come to expect of Opus Arte. The camera work is involving and provides sharp imaging. The sound is presented in DTS 5.1 and stereo options of good range and definition.

There is a 21 minute bonus feature in the form of an interview between Pappano and Fleming as well as the usual cast gallery.

In summary this is a well-performed and recorded traditional production of La Traviata. Interpretively there are no special insights offered, but just a good old fashioned honest delivery of a popular opera. Technically this is a good and reliable product which apparently aims to satisfy a traditional middle-of-the-road audience. There is nothing wrong with any of this and I personally find this altogether more satisfying than watching a performance or production that is essentially more self-aware than Verdi probably intended.

Finally, how does this compare? Beyond the resume given above I can only answer for myself of course. For me personally the main issue revolves around Violetta and here I find that Renee Fleming acts this really rather well, as well as anyone. But ... and here we have it ... for me she is still acting and it is with Angela Gheorghiu that one finds something quite different. With Gheorghiu you actually experience someone who actually becomes Violetta. Her first recording with Solti clearly has youth on its side but the older Gheorghiu on the later recording with Maazel at La Scala has everything else including Blu-ray and budget price.

For all of these reasons I personally find this latest ROH offering to be a very good production. Those who warm to Fleming as I do to Gheorghiu will probably prefer her in the role and would probably therefore expect an equal 5 star rating for this disc. In the end there are personal choices to be made based more on subjective preferences rather than objective measurements. Any of these four discs (two by both Fleming and Gheorghiu) will probably give equal satisfaction to different purchasers and this review can only be considered as an overall guide to those choices.

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5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't believe this!, 29 April 2014
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This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
Brilliant! The opera was new to me I had't heard it before but I had read the synopsis.. It was Renee Flemings's opera all the way - as it should be. The power and accuracy of this small lady was mind blowing. Anyone who says that they don't like sopranos should hear this. The apparent effortlessness of her voice is incredible!

Dudley Martin
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5.0 out of 5 stars gardener., 1 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
Loved every minute of this dvd. Every one of the cast performed well (especially Joseph Calleja) and the heroine really looked ill and dying in the final scene. Excellent value.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad wig day, 18 May 2011
By 
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
The Royal Opera House had a big hit with this opera in the 1990s with Angela Ghiorghiu in the title role. This time, it is Renée Fleming who dons the silk corsets as the courtesan with a heart of gold. The production gets off to a bad start with a plodding account of the beautiful prelude, courtesy of Antonio Pappano. Fleming also seems unsettled in the opening scene and it is left to the sonorous tenor Joseph Calleja as Alfredo to settle everyones nerves.

Things improve at the end of Act I where Violetta has her big solos, E Strano and Sempre Libera. In contrast to Ghiorghiu's beautiful sound, Fleming bravely goes for characterisation and interpretation. Her sound at times is scarcely musical as she chokes and sobs but the effect is extremely moving. At the end of the act she takes a solo curtain call. This is rather unusual these days but the audience who, presumably, had each paid about 200 to see the Diva, loved it.

Unfortunately, that is the highlight of the evening. Act II is let down by a wooden performance by Thomas Hampson as Germont Pére. He is a brilliant baritone playing antiheros such as Don Giovanni and Hamlet but he does not seem to have made the transition to these middle-aged character parts. Act III is effective musically but is rather spoilt by Renée Fleming's bad wig.

Overall, this does not match up to Angela Gheorghiu's 1994 performance at the same venue or her even better 2007 performance at La Scala in 2007.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Verdi, La Traviata, Renee Fleming, DVD, 28 Sep 2011
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
This is my second DVD copy of this opera, and much better than the other. I only wish other members of the family were as interested in opera as I am so that we could share it.

The costumes and settings are lovely, the singing is heartfelt, and the acting of the singers is so convincing that they seem to be the characters they represent. One reason why I wanted this particular DVD is because I'm a great admirer of Renee Fleming.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars music lover, 12 Sep 2011
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This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
one of the best recordings ever of this opera, fleming is superb, and have got great support from the entire cast.
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Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010]
Verdi: La Traviata [2011] [DVD] [2010] by Richard Eyre (DVD - 2011)
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