Opera in the vernacular
can be a turn-off for many, even if
fluent in the 'receiving' language.
So how many English-speakers, I wonder,
might not even give this a second glance?
Traviata in German from Frankfurt
in the early fifties?
Look a bit closer and
the experienced hand of Molinari-Pradelli
might give a clue that there will be
plenty to admire. The difficult Prelude
to Act 1 shows what calibre of orchestra
trainer he is. The sound here, as throughout
the set, is good-ish but slightly glassy.
Listen to the violins around 1'40 for
how Molinari-Pradelli gets them to mould
the phrases to give a sense of Italianate
expansion. Molinari-Pradelli's interpretation
follows the contours of Verdi's music
perfectly; energetic when required,
but free to give plenty of space also.
The recording is stretched
sometimes. Try the violin ascending
scales in track 2, punctuating - perhaps
a little literally - the party-fizz
and try not to be too fazed by the initial
shock of the sound of the German language.
So to the soloists,
first of whom is of course the Violetta,
Clara Ebers. Her diction is excellent,
her voice open and free, capable of
Verdi's tricky fast writing. Gastone
(Robert Kraft) cannot claim the same,
being acceptable but somewhat constricted.
This first scene is an excellent example
of Molinari-Pradelli's verve when required.
It is aptly paced to convey the necessary
sense of atmosphere. He is the perfect
accompanist, too, in Violetta's 'È
strano' ('s ist seltsam!'). Interestingly
in German this struck me as not too
far away from early Wagner (!), up until
1'06, when the tripping flutes enter.
Anyway, Ebers' 'Sempre libera' is almost
beyond criticism. So, no applause after
Act 1 - is this a radio broadcast?
Ebers is at her best
towards the end of the opera - as is
of course appropriate. Her reading of
the letter is spot-on and her delivery
of the 'Addio del passato' flawless.
It is a pity that there is a touch of
distortion around the 1'35-1’40 mark.
Occasionally the sound comes and goes
The orchestra is, perhaps,
overly robust, in the German style,
for the introduction to 'Libiano' (here
'O Freunde ...'), but Holm as Alfredo
is superb. His Act 1 'Un dì
felice' - 'So hold. so reizend' - is
exquisite. Perhaps predictably from
the above, the Alfredo and Violetta
work excellently together - between
the two Holm takes the musical honours,
however, until the very end of Act 3,
where both are at their peaks. Perhaps
he is too narcissistic in his Act 2
'Lunga da lei' ('Ferne von ihr'), but
there is no denying that he can shade
a line nicely. Again, Molinari-Pradelli
sticks to him like glue.
Of the principals,
possibly the most familiar name will
be that of Josef Metternich, who from
a rather superficial beginning quickly
establishes a close rapport with his
difficult role. In his interactions
with Violetta, he can do ‘placatory
yet firm’ excellently. This first meeting
is a highlight - hear how the orchestra
blazes at Violetta's 'No gioammai'.
His 'Un dì
, quando le veneri' ('Wenn einst die
Zeit ...') is positively heart-breaking.
His 'Di Provenza il mar', too ('Hat
ein heimatliches Land') is a real outpouring;
Metternich in ultra-resonant form! This
is special singing.
Not all soloists are
first rate, but none are less than second.
Enter Annina, Kä
the Lindloff, clearly in a different
league from the principals but nevertheless
not unpleasant to listen to. Presumably
chosen for the way her voice is both
immediately distinguishable yet blends
well with Ebers', her passages with
Violetta are a delight.
Flora Bervoix is very attractive. Weakest
of the soloists is Aage Poulsen's Doctor.
The chorus is fairly
well trained, occasionally lagging somewhat.
Nevertheless, this is thoroughly recommendable.
Never for a first choice, of course;
not on the linguistics but on the various
shortcomings listed above. But still
worthy of the small amount of shelf-space
it uses up.