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Verdi - La Traviata   [Region Free]
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Verdi's best-loved work, is performed here by a star cast in a revival of Richard Eyre's highly acclaimed 1994 production. Music Director Antonio Pappano conducts La traviata for the first time at Covent Garden. American oprano Renée Fleming returns to Covent Garden to sing Violetta for the first time with The Royal Opera. La traviata was first performed at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice in March 1853.
"Antonio Pappano takes charge of this revival, searching out the meaning of Verdi's score in a supple, sentient reading that sweeps you along." (The Guardian)
"At the age of 50, [Fleming] still looks very good in the role of the doomed courtesan...[she] sounds good, too, singing with consistent skill...There's a sincerity to Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja's portrayal of Alfredo which gives it more spontaneity than his American colleagues supply...Stronger than the vocals is the conducting of Antonio Pappano, which possesses a natural stylishness and fluency.
" (BBC Music Magazine ★★★)
"I was sniffy about her first night but this DVD comes from later in the run, by which time she had found an uncharacteristic emotional freedom. She is still the prima donna playing the part, but the beautiful sounds she makes, especially in the Act One finale and the Act Two party, are well worth hearing, and the high-quality film-work puts us right at the heart of the action.
" (The Financial Times ★★★★)
"... this is a sensible, believable, attractive presentation that is more in line with Verdi than with the idiocies of Regietheater...Vocally, [Fleming] is on good form at almost every turn... Calleja must sound authentic enough as an Italianate tenor for anyone...I always have the impression that [Pappano] works with the singers rather than challenging them to a duel. The chorus and orchestra respond fittingly to his direction.
" (International Record Review)
CastRenée Fleming (Violetta)Joseph Calleja (Alfredo)Thomas Hampson (Germont)
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Antonio PappanoStage Director: Richard Eyre
Catalogue Number: OABD7076DDate of Performance: 2009Running Time: 135 minutesSound: 2.0LPCM + 5.1(5.0) DTSAspect Ratio: 1080i High DefinitionSubtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, ITLabel: Opus Arte
At the age of 50 Fleming still looks very good in the role of the doomed courtesan.She sounds good,singing with consistent skill. Performance *** Picture & Sound **** --BBC Music Magazine,July'11
Vocally she is on good form. She is always worth listening and watching(and adding to one's DVD collection). --IRR,June'11
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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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