Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
La Traviata (1853)
Violetta Valery, Lisette Oropesa (soprano); Alfredo Germont, René Barbera (tenor); Giorgio Germont, Lester Lynch (baritone)
Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden
Dresdner Philharmonie/Daniel Oren
rec. 2021, Kulturpalast Dresden, Germany
Italian libretto with English and German translations enclosed
Reviewed as downloaded from press preview
PENTATONE PTC5186956 SACD [2 discs: 135]
Verdi’s La Traviata is certainly not under-represented on CD, but it is many a moon since a brand-new studio recording arrived. Pentatone have of late issued worthy productions of both standard repertoire and relative rarities, and the opening act promised well. Daniel Oren, now in his mid-sixties, has had an important international career since he won first prize in the first Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in 1975. He knows how to build up the prelude from an atmospheric murmuring of the strings to the caressing love theme and then back to a soft end, but as the curtain opens, he shifts gear to a swift, exuberant party mood where everyone is in high spirits. Maybe the rhythms are too accentuated, too rustic for a Parisian upper-class festivity, but one feels the pulsating fervour. Alfredo sings his Brindisi with his light lyric tenor and Violetta responds with easy effortless tones. Un di, felice is soft, almost dreamlike and very sensitively nuanced, and then comes Violetta’s grand aria: Č strano, sensitively, almost hesitatingly, stunned by the sudden feeling of love she has never experienced before; Ah! fors'č lui, beautifully sung and filled with expectations; then she has second thoughts: Follie – This is madness – Sempre libera – Free and aimless I shall flutter. But when she repeats this stanza, she hears Alfredo echo her words from earlier, and even though she adheres to her decision we know that love is going to win. Her jubilant last phrases tell the truth – though her final note is slightly flat. It was a long time since I was so spellbound by this scene.
Alfredo’s aria in the second act is also well-sung, youthful tone and he never overtaxes the voice, not even in the cabaletta. The idyll is complete it seems. “I have forgotten the world and lived like one in Heaven”, says Alfredo. But this is just a chimera. Poverty is knocking on the door. Alfredo hastens to Paris, and Violetta enters, receives a letter from Flora who invites her to a party, Violetta declines, and then enter Giorgio Germont. The long scene between him and Violetta is the highpoint of this opera, musically as well as dramatically. And the drama is as intensely moving here as in any other recording or live performance I’ve heard, for Lester Lynch is deeply involved and he is also in due time full of compassion and warmth, but his singing leaves a lot to be desired. He sounds decidedly old, which a man of his age should do, but he is unsteady and wobbly. Sesto Bruscantini on the 1973 recording under Lamberto Gardelli with Mirella Freni and Franco Bonisolli on top form, was also a little dry and worn, but far more attractive when it comes to actual sounds. I know that Lester Lynch has got rave reviews in many places, but to my ears his singing is unattractive. Germont’s Di Provenza il mar towards the end of act II, is admittedly sung with great warmth, but the tone is grey and shaky. It is greatly comforting to hear Lisette Oropesa pouring out golden tone throughout the act – and deeply emotional too. I’m afraid that René Barbera’s Alfredo’s voice loses quality in the dramatic utterances he has to sing, and the tone becomes bleating.
In the Flora scene the choruses – both the male and the female – excel in thrilling singing, not least in the concerted finale, where Violetta’s lovely soprano hovers effortlessly on top of the ensemble. But Alfredo again bleats in the scene when he condemns Violetta.
The third act is very much Violetta’s. After the sensitive orchestral andante, her conversations with Annina and the doctor are emotional – both comprimario singers are excellent! – the reading of Germont’s letter is touching and the following aria Addio del passato even more so. Alfredo arrives and their conversation leads over to the duet, Parigi, oh cara, where Alfredo makes amends for his rough singing in the previous act and is soft and caring, while Violetta is etherical. With the arrival of Germont the end is very close, and one must have a heart of stone not to be touched to tears during the last pages.
The playing of the orchestra cannot be faulted and Pentatone’s sound staff deliver an expert recording. The secondary roles – apart from those mentioned in the last act – are fairly in-distinguished. Not a recording that sweeps the board – de los Angeles, Sutherland, Scotto, Caballé, Freni and Cotrubas with excellent co-singers belong to the Royal Family in this opera – but Lisette Oropesa belongs to the same family and should be heard by every lover of this opera.
Flora Bervoix, Ilseyar Khayrullova (mezzo-soprano); Annina, Menna Cazel (soprano); Gastone, Francesco Pittari (tenor); Barone Douphol, Allen Boxer (baritone); Marquese d’Obigny, Biagio Pizzuti (baritone); Dottore Grenvil, Alexander Köpeczy (bass)
Choir soloists: Giuseppe, Tobias Schrader (tenor); Un servo, Reinhold Schreyer-Morlock (bass); Un Commissionario, Aleksander Födisch (bass)