Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La Traviata (1853)
Violetta Valery – Licia Albanese (soprano)
Alfredo Germont – Jan Peerce (tenor)
Giorgio Germont – Robert Merrill (baritone)
Flora Bervoix – Maxine Stellman (mezzo)
Annina – Johanne Morland (soprano)
Gastone – John Garris (baritone)
Barone Duopol – George Cehanovsky (baritone)
Marquis d’Obigny – Paul Dennis (bass)
Doctor Grenvil – Arthur Newman (bass)
Chorus/NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini
rec. dress rehearsals in November and December 1946 in NYC
No texts or translations
MUSIC & ARTS CD-4271 [57:07 + 46:45]
In preparation for NBC broadcasts of La Traviata, these dress rehearsals – fortunately recorded – served to tighten the screw of the production. The two discs presented preserve the rehearsals and run consecutively through the opera, enlivened by some typical Toscaninian vocal encouragement, which here consists of a hoarse singing along, or singing parts solo. Thus what we have is, in effect, an alternative to the eventual production which was broadcast early in December 1946. It was valuable that fully 13 hours of rehearsals have survived all told, though the bulk of the material heard in this twofer comes from rehearsals given on 30 November and 7 December.
In his long notes William Youngren is consistent in his admiration for these rehearsals, preferring them at almost every point to the eventual broadcast, and finding in them a greater level of intensity. Given Toscanini’s vocal input, it would be pointless to suggest that this represents a genuine contender amongst front rank recordings, but as an ancillary to the broadcast it will certainly make a great deal of sense. There are no noticeable tempo variations except in the case of the opening Preludio, which is rather more expressive and less metrical than in the later broadcast performance.
The recording is good, clear, clean and quite up-front. Therefore there are moments of overload from time to time in tuttis, but the blasting passes quite quickly and it’s not an important concern. More relevant are the performances. I don’t find Peerce as ‘elegant’ as Youngren does, though I am prepared to admit that Licia Albanese is a touch more communicative than in the later broadcast. She was maybe more relaxed. Her technique is certainly first class, excepting some awkward gulps. The conductor is at his most urgent and hoarsely addictive in the first rehearsed passage in Act II where he takes on the role of the servant Giuseppe – the original singer was either ill or unlucky. Whichever, he certainly couldn’t have been at his mark. Elsewhere he hushes volume or demands a crescendo, and begins to — but doesn’t quite — lose his temper.
As I suggested earlier, this is really aimed squarely at Toscanini collectors who will find the dress rehearsals of some documentary significance.
Aimed squarely at Toscanini collectors who will find the dress rehearsals of some documentary significance.