3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Two fine leads and excellent conducting,
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This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata (Audio CD)
There is a puzzling tendency amongst reviewers to refer to Pavarotti here as if he we were antiquated and struggling, when in fact he was only 55 at the time of the recording in mid-1991 and in excellent voice. He was, perhaps, in even better voice eleven years earlier but his then partner, Joan Sutherland was already too mature whereas Studer is here in finest form in her mid-thirties; she is technically and tonally very well equipped for the role with a light, flickering vibrato and a silvery sheen to her soprano, often employing an effective portamento. Not everything she does quite comes off - there are some unsteady pianissimi and moments of flailing for the top notes but by and large hers is a very intelligent, touching and believable account. Pavarotti, too, had by this stage acquired the irksome habit of rounding off too many phrases with an explosive "uh" and his tone is undoubtedly less sappy than of yore, but compared with successors he is a god. He is especially animated in Act II Scene 2, the gambling scene when he shames himself by insulting Violetta. His live "Don Carlo" a year later at La Scala under Muti has similarly been unfairly excoriated yet it seems to me that he was in exceptionally good voice in the early 90's.
The rest of the cast is ordinary. Juan Pons is an adequate if occasionally somewhat blustery Germont; he makes a nice job of his arias without being very memorable.
Levine's conducting is tender and energised by turns and the playing of the Metropolitan Orchestra excellent. It's a pity that Levine regresses by permitting some irritating cuts in the score.
My favourite performance remains the live Covent Garden recoding with Callas, Valletti and Zanasi under Rescigno in 1958 but this one is a contender if you like the artists concerned, even if no-one can approach Callas's pathos and nuanced delivery of the text. For many, too, Caballé's delicacy as Violetta represents a benchmark performance, accompanied by Bergonzi and Milnes under an unfortunately unyielding Pretre.