have a soft spot for La traviata, since it was the very
first complete opera recording I bought more than forty years
ago. That was a recording issued by Concert Hall, conducted
by Gianfranco Rivoli with Elena Todeschi singing Violetta Valery.
Does anyone remember this recording today? I played it over
and over again for weeks and months and knew it almost by heart.
The quality of the singing was variable, to say the least, and
when I got other versions that recording fell into oblivion,
but returning to it after many years I still appreciated Todeschi’s
singing more than that of many famous names. She had a somewhat
fluttery tone that could be irritating, but it fitted the role
and you can’t expect a consumption-ridden soprano to be perfectly
mention this because when hearing Edita Gruberova’s Violetta
I recognized this flutter. She also can be a little unsteady
and she has some very shrill moments, especially in the big
first act aria. But there is also deep involvement and she has
this stupendous ability to fine down the voice to the thinnest
thread of pianissimo. I know of no other soprano, Caballé excluded
of course, who can do this so exquisitely, and she does it time
after time. Go to her third act aria, Addio, del
passato, and I am sure she will at once win you over. After that, go backwards
to the long scene with Giorgio Germont in act two, the most
wonderful part not only in this opera but in all opera (well,
there are a few other scenes on the same level, I have to admit).
There we also meet Giorgio Zancanaro, perhaps the most outstanding
Verdi baritone during the 1970s and 1980s. He may not have had
the largest or most beautiful voice (Silvano Carroli and Renato
Bruson respectively can claim to be superior) and he too has
a slight fast flutter, not unlike Pasquale Amato in the distant
past, but no-one else has his ability to colour the voice and
modulate it, to vary the volume. Every phrase lives. Compared
to him Bruson, who recorded this opera with Scotto and Alfredo
Kraus back in the early 1980s, is monochrome. I can’t remember
hearing this second act scene more involvingly sung and acted
with vocal means alone. His Provence aria has the same qualities.
to thi two singing actors Neil Shicoff sounds anonymous. He
has a good voice with an ardent delivery. He has good taste
but I get the feeling that he approaches his character from
without while the other two do it from within. Shicoff obviously
has to be seen as well as heard to give full impact. On-stage
he is one of the most intense actors imaginable.
Rizzi conducts the LSO with feeling, almost too much so in the
first act prelude, which is beautifully played but so slow that
you begin to despair if the curtain will ever rise. In fact
it doesn’t, for after the prelude we are transported directly
to the Drinking song, where we also meet the Ambrosian Singers
on good form. We meet them on their own further on in the only
excerpt from act two scene two, the party at Flora’s place,
where they sing the gipsy chorus with great élan.
of the well-known set pieces are here. For some reason Alfredo
and Violetta are not allowed their first act duet Un di felice.
On the other hand Alfredo sings his cabaletta in act two, Oh
mio rimorso, and that is good for it is often cut in stage
performances, just as often is the case with Germont père’s
cabaletta in the same act. It is only a couple of minutes long
and it would have been good to have it too. After the Provence aria, we get the little dialogue between father and son and then there
is a very blunt ending with Alfredo’s No! And then we
are at once at Flora’s party.
booklet gives a short description of the characters, a synopsis
and a few lines about “The career of traviata”. Playing time
is generous, almost 72 minutes. If you need a highlights disc
from La traviata you can’t do much better than this,
especially at the price. Warmly recommended!