This is Callas’s only studio recording
of La Traviata, made in 1953 for Cetra.
Unfortunately its existence prevented
Callas from singing on the proposed
1955 EMI studio recording; having made
the Cetra recording, Callas was not
allowed to record the role again for
five years. The years between 1953 and
1955 were the ones where Callas fully
developed as an artist, so that if she
had recorded the work in 1955 we would
have had a complete artistic view of
the role. As it is, we must content
ourselves with this studio picture of
Callas’s still partially embryonic Violetta,
along with the later live recordings
from Lisbon and La Scala.
These later live recordings
have the advantage of Callas the mature
artist caught live. When she was on
form, she was always more thrilling,
more vivid live and luckily on the two
live Traviata recordings she is on form.
The drawback, of course, is the sound
quality. So, in theory, we should welcome
this reissue of the Cetra studio recording.
Unfortunately the sound
quality is adequate rather than superb
and the cast adequate rather than exciting.
As with other Cetra recordings of the
period, this Traviata provides an interesting
historical picture of an Italian performance.
But it is hard to be too enthusiastic.
Francesco Albanese is a run-of-the-mill
Alfredo. Whilst his performance is not
quite of the stand and deliver
type, his subtlety is very limited.
Ugo Savarese is a not unsympathetic
Germont, but he hardly lifts the set
into higher artistic realms. The smaller
roles are barely adequately cast.
It is only with Callas
that we get glimpses of something magical.
As ever with this singer, there is a
trade-off between her artistic development
and her voice; here we have her in superb
voice but without all the heart-breaking
depth of later recordings. But even
in 1953, Callas could give many sopranos
a run for their money in this role.
Her shaping of phrase is truly notable
and in Act 3 becomes quite moving. If
only she were supported by a good conductor,
then this set would be interesting and
distinguished. As it is, Gabriele Santini’s
conducting is on the disappointingly
The set comes with
a complete libretto (complete as set
by Verdi, with the cuts rather usefully
marked). The booklet has a number of
interesting illustrations. It must be
pointed out that this recording has
already been issued by Regis Records
and they added two bonus tracks: Callas
in arias from ‘Nabucco’ and ‘ Macbeth’.
So if you want Callas
in La Traviata, I would advise you to
try and listen to the live recordings.
If you can live with their aural defects
then you get Callas supported by fine
cast and conductor, unlike on these