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Verdi: La Traviata [Ermonela Jaho, Francesco Demuro, Vladimir Stoyanov] [DVD]  [NTSC]
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Live from the Arena di Verona, 2011
Violetta Valéry Ermonela Jaho
Alfredo Germont Francesco Demuro
Giorgio Germont Vladimir Stoyanov
Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet of the Arena di Verona
Conductor Julian Kovatchev
Stage Director Hugo de Ana
La Traviata is not only one of Giuseppe Verdi's best known works but ranks among the most popular operas of all times. Based on the novel and play La Dame aux camélias by Alexander Dumas (fils), the tragic story of the terminally ill courtesan Violetta who falls in love with the young gentleman Alfredo Germont has moved audiences to tears for more than 150 years.
This lavish new production of Verdi's masterpiece is staged by Argentine director Hugo de Ana, a regular guest at the world's most prestigious opera houses and acclaimed for his spectacular scenery sets and his special use of light. The extra-large stage of the Arena di Verona is his ideal challenge. Ermonela Jaho, an intense and dramatic Violetta, and Francesco Demuro, an elegant Alfredo, are both making their Arena debut. Vladimir Stoyanov, giving a commanding yet refined Germont, completes the exquisite trio of protagonists under the baton of acclaimed conductor Julian Kovatchev.
Sound Formats: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1
Picture Format: 16:9
DVD Format: DVD 9 / NTSC
Subtitle Languages: IT (Original Language), GB, DE, FR, ES, JP, Korean
Running Time: 132 mins
Region Code: 0
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The stage is set on the Arena steps with basically no backdrop. It's made up of mostly picture frames and large posters on cloth scattered around. It's clear right away that no body mics are used, and the voices are distant, often swamped by the orchestra. Since there's no ceiling, back wall or sides, the voices get little reinforcement, but they are not big voices to start with. Maybe there is some audio reinforcement for the audience, but it doesn't seem to be fed into the recording equipment.
Violetta and Alfredo are in formal wear, but Alfredo's make-up makes him look like a Corpse - a greyish foundation with cheek rouge and red lipstick. That may work for an audience 200 feet away with stadium lighting, but certainly not for close-up video.
I came to the conclusion fairly early that this had to be a student production - Violetta and Alfredo knew their music but noy their characters. They sang past each other and the dancers that were there for the party hardly interacted and then left. I suspect that there were a number of cuts taken but I really don't want to go back and go over this trainwreck. So much of the human interaction that goes on in act one just sailed past. Near the end of the act we notice Violetta sitting on one of these oversize picture frames with a web belt on and some nylon handholds and see the frame slowly rising as the lights go out. What a waste of affect and time!
Act two begins with oversized beach furniture and a large floral picture on cloth that is somewhat lifted up at the back. No country house, the picture is the garden I guess... Germont Pere arrives, Vladimir Stoyanov made up as a Ghoul - white pancake with dark brown age lines, like Ghiaurov made up as Mefistofeles on the old Decca album. He has a good baritone voice, but without much subtlety or character, like the principles. Alfredo has his shirt open, so we see his tanned neck below the greyish foundation they have on him. Oy.
The conductor, Julian Kovatchev, races thru the whole casino scene, rolling right thru some of th most significant moments in the opera, not stopping for "Va, va...". I was amazed! The scene with the Gypsies and Matadors was much shortened, choreography was poor, footwork was random, and the matadors couldn't manage to twirl their capes together.
The third Act was like trains passing in the night. But lest I forget, for the third Act Violetta, who was rather plainly made up so far, was now made up to look like a Zombie. Very sallow skin tone, sunken cheeks, showing her teeth like a mummy. You could hardly make this stuff up, it's so ridiculous!
We have a corpse, a ghoul and a zombie. Did anybody even WATCH this before it was issued?
And if Arthaus has the resources available to publish this, why are we unable to get a video of Antonacci, Meli and Vassallo doing Traviata? And while we're at it, how about some Ewa Podles? Those are artists that NEED to be recorded.
On the bright side, I watched the 2007 Traviata from La Scala with Ghiorghiu, Vargas and Frontali on blu-ray, and it is superb! Ghiorghiu and Vargas are so expressive, so is Frontali. How refreshing! Everything that's missing at Verona is here. And, it's been on special (complete, but with promo for other titles) for less than $10, but not forever. Grab it if you find it.
There's also a lesser-known Traviata I wanted to mention. It's part of the Tutto Verdi set on C major, extremely creatively done with
great visual images and singing. I'll review it separately.