Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

absolutely thrilling

immediacy and spontaneity

Schumann Lieder

24 Preludes
one of the finest piano discs

‘Box of Delights.’

J S Bach A New Angle
Organ fans form an orderly queue

a most welcome issue

I enjoyed it tremendously

the finest traditions of the house

music for theorbo
old and new

John Luther Adams
Become Desert
concealing a terrifying message

ground-breaking, winning release

screams quality

Surprise of the month

English Coronation, 1902-1953
magnificent achievement

alternatively AmazonUK AmazonUS

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La Traviata - opera in three acts (1853)
Violetta Valery, a courtesan - Renato Scotto (soprano); Flora, her friend – Sarah Walker (mezzo); Annina, her maid - Cynthia Buchan (mezzo); Alfredo Germont, an ardent admirer – Alfredo Krauss (tenor); Giorgio Germont, his father - Renato Bruson (baritone); Gastone, Visconte de Letoirières and friend of Alfredo – Suso Mariategui (tenor); Doctor Grenvil, Roderick Kennedy (bass); Baron Douphol, an admirer of Violetta – Henry Newman (baritone)
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Philharmonia Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
rec. July 1980. Kingsway Hall, London
[75.00 + 54.06]
Experience Classicsonline

In 1852, during the composition of Il Trovatore, Verdi agreed to present an opera at Venice’s La Fenice with Piave, a resident of Venice, as the librettist. To the frustration of the theatre and librettist the composer constantly put off the decision as to the subject of the new opera. However, whilst on a visit to Paris Verdi had seen and been impressed by Alexander Dumas’s semi-autobiographical play La Dame aux caméllias based on the novel of the same name. The subject appealed to him, but he recognised that it might encounter problems with the censors. Eventually he decided to go ahead with the subject and La Traviata became his nineteenth opera. It was the most contemporary subject he ever set, was premiered at La Fenice on 6 March 1853. La Traviata is also unique in Verdi’s oeuvre in being wholly set indoors.

Verdi spent the winter of 1852 worrying about the suitability of the soprano scheduled to sing the consumptive Violetta. He was also correct in worrying about the censors. The whole project was nearly called off when they objected. Verdi was also decidedly upset when La Fenice decided to set his contemporary subject in an earlier period, thus losing the immediacy and relevance that he intended. As to the singers, all went well at the start. At the end of act I, with its florid coloratura singing for the eponymous soprano Verdi was called to the stage. The audience was less sympathetic to the portly soprano portraying a dying consumptive in the last act and laughed loudly. Verdi had been right to worry and he considered the opening night a fiasco. After the contracted series of Fenice performances he withdrew the work, only allowing stagings that were true to his vision. The fact that it was the smaller Venice theatre that first agreed to meet his demands, and where the opera was rapturously received, was a particular pleasure as well as vindication of the composer. 

In the booklet accompanying Renée Fleming’s assumption of the title role (see review) the diva contends that Violetta is the perfect role in the entire soprano lexicon and that by which most sopranos have, historically, been measured. More importantly she takes the view that each act of La Traviata makes its own particular vocal demands on the soprano singing the title role, a viewpoint that is generally accepted. Act I demands vocal lightness and coloratura flexibility, particularly for the demanding near twelve-minute finale of E strano…Ah, fors’e è lu (CD 1 trs.8-9) and Follie…follie!Sempre libera (tr.10-11). For the first scene of Act II, Fleming believes an Italian verismo voice capable of wide expression and some power is needed. This is in the context of Alfredo’s father confronting Violetta and turning the emotional screw by talking about the threat Alfredo’s liaison with Violetta poses to the marriage of his daughter (CD 1 tr.16). In Act III, poignancy, dramatic expression and colour are the order of the day. Limpid lyricism is called on as Violetta recites the phrases in Teneste la promessa …. Addio del passato (CD 2 tr.11) as she reads Germont’s letter indicating Alfredo’s return and as she realises it is all too late.

Renée Fleming was in her forty-fifth year when she made her debut as Violetta at the Met. Renata Scotto, the diva in this performance, was a mere eighteen years of age when she sang the role in her stage debut on Christmas Eve 1952 in her home town of Savona. She substituted for Callas as Amina in La Sonnambula at the Edinburgh Festival in 1957, making her Covent Garden debut as Mimi later that year and as the eponymous Butterfly at the Met in 1965. On record Scotto sang Glauce to Callas’s Medea in the 1957 La Scala recording of Cheubini’s Medea. She went on to record a number of major roles for DG and EMI in the following years including Violetta in Traviata for the former, issued in 1963. She became a firm favourite at the Met as an outstanding singing actress. In the manner of Callas she was more concerned with characterisation than with vocal beauty for its own sake. This is evident in her recording of Butterfly conducted by Barbirolli (see review) when I wrote Scotto sometimes over-characterises the girlishness of Butterfly and has the odd raw note at the top of her voice when under pressure. The upside of her interpretation however, is that she lives and breathes all of Butterfly’s many emotions leaving the involved listener ‘gutted’ at her final tragedy. The same is true of her performance of Violetta in this recording. Her coloratura in act one is not perfect with the odd raw note. Likewise in acts two and three there is some spread in her tone when she puts pressure on the voice. But, as in her Butterfly, there is a big upside in that she is a very believable Violetta. The listener hears all of Violetta’s many emotions as Scotto portrays the uncertainties, agonies and final hopelessness and death of the character. Her portrayal lacks the vocal freshness of her earlier DG recording but has far greater emotional depth. This quality marked much of Scotto’s stage and recorded portrayals. She is perhaps best appreciated in her staged performances caught on DVD, often from the Met where she became a firm favourite because of her total acting and commitment to characterisation. Examples are her Luisa (see review) and Manon (see review). It is a case of warts and all with Scotto. As far as audio recordings are concerned her vocal variability perhaps contributed to a period of neglect by the record companies until she was ‘rediscovered’ by CBS who recorded a series of her vivid portrayals in the late 1970s.

Scotto’s partner as Alfredo, as on other of her recordings, is the ever-tasteful Alfredo Krauss. He phrases with elegance in the act one Brindisi (CD 1 tr.3) and is ardent in his declaration of adoration (CD 1 tr.12). His voice, with vocal beauty and character, blends with that of Scotto in Parigi o cara as the two sing of a dream of life together in Paris before the realisation of Violetta’s dire state (CD 2 tr.14). Regrettably, time has taken its inevitable toll of his voice which is somewhat dry and lacking in sap. He also tends to abbreviate the end of some phrases. As Alfredo’s father Germont, Renato Bruson was at that time the foremost Donizetti baritone whilst also venturing into Verdi. His Falstaff, recorded in 1982 is a superbly sung and acted portrayal (see review). At this stage of his career he sings with burnished tone and musicality in Di Provenza il mar (CD 1 tr.24). Sadly though he does not seem able to give the vocal resonance and colour the role requires for Germont’s dramatic outburst in Act II Scene 2 or when imposing his will on Violetta. It is a role in which his portrayal in more recent DVD performances dominates via his acted presence; regrettably his vocal state is no longer pristine (see review 1 and review 2).

Whilst Verdi did not always succeed in getting what he wanted from stage productions he would have warmed to the principles that Riccardo Muti brings to the podium. He always seeks to be true to a composer and Verdi in particular. Consequently there are no unwritten high notes interpolated and the performance has no cuts. However, whilst I find that his well sprung rhythms add vitality compared with the turgid conducting of Georges Prêtre on RCA (see review), the downside is Muti’s fast speeds and excessive dynamics at times.

The new GROC packaging and presentation give a more classy appearance than the original but purchasers should be aware that there is no libretto provided. The booklet gives a full track-listing; a detailed track-related synopsis and an essay titled Muti and La Traviata, the latter two in English and German. The Kingsway Hall digital recording has come up well with a balance of presence and warmth. There are no indications of remastering. Even at mid-price this performance enters a highly competitive market. Despite my love of the singing of Caballé, Bergonzi and Milnes on the RCA issue, I wouldn’t want to be without Scotto’s deeply-felt and portrayed interpretation.

Robert J Farr


We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.