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Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901)
La Traviata (1853)
Marie McLaughlin (soprano) Violetta Valery
Walter McNeil (tenor) Alfredo Germond
Jane Turner (mezzo-soprano) Flora Bervoix
Christopher Thornton-Holmes (bass) Marchese d’Obigny
Gordon Sandison (baritone) Baron Douphol
John Hall (bass) Doctor Grenvil
David Hillman (tenor) Gastone
Enid Hartle (soprano) Annina
Martyn Harrison (tenor) Giuseppe
Brent Ellis (tenor) Germont
Charles Kerry (bass) Messenger
Chorus and Orchestra of Glyndebourne Opera Chorus and the London
Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink.
Set Design: John Gunter, Stage and Television Direction by Peter Hall.
recorded in 1988 at Glyndebourne (DVD).
ARTHAUS 100 112 [138 minutes]


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This performance is now released in tandem with Aida from the La Scala production of 1986. Arthaus is issuing various pairs of DVDs at a reduced price. Sometimes offers such as these are very much curate’s eggs, but this pair is excellent. If you wish to have both these operas on DVD, don’t hesitate; they are well worth having.

This was filmed in the Glyndebourne Opera house in conjunction with TV South and Channel Four. The performance was recorded without the presence of an audience, and the gain is considerable; no extraneous noises add to the effect of the production. The sets are very good, traditional in nature fitting the time scale of the drama. Peter Hall’s production is first rate and added to the superb musical direction of Bernard Haitink this performance is extremely strong.

As with many Glyndebourne productions the cast chosen is not drawn from the normal celebrity roster, but you need not worry in the slightest. The principals are absolutely superb with very strong, characterful singing and good acting. Pride of the bunch are the Violetta of Marie McLaughlin and the Alfredo of Walter McNeil. These two principals hold the stage when they are performing, and I found their combined performances very satisfying.

The video production is first rate with many close-ups showing the emotions on the soloists’ faces. This means that they have to feel the drama as it is progressing and this shines through the whole performance. The sound is less than satisfactory, being determined for domestic television listening. This means that it is a little coarse and close up, but the balance between the orchestra and soloists is satisfying. The lack of refinement in the sound is a shame because Haitink inspires the LPO to play their hearts out. They play with a passion which undoubtedly enhances the proceedings. The production is very clearly for television; we only get a very brief glimpse of the conductor at the beginning of Act 1. He is not seen again, even to take a curtain call, (no audience), and therefore no curtain calls for anyone.

The shortcomings lie mainly at Verdi’s door; it takes Violetta about half an hour to expire. About half way through this marathon, I was hoping that she would stop singing about dying and die. This will come as no surprise to opera fans used to the willing suspension of disbelief. I am sure that they will love this performance. Recommended.

John Phillips



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