2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Personal preferences will probably be the deciding factors when choosing between Fleming and Gheorghiu,
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This review is from: Verdi - La Traviata [Blu-ray]   (Blu-ray)
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.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)
I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)
I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)