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Posted October 1, 2010
Opera as Drama: A Traviata of Great Intelligence and Musicality
Opera, gratefully, more than any other music form gathers polarized opinions: some aficionados prefer the old recordings to the new, the 'big' singers to the physically beautiful one somehow postulating that if the singers look credible on stage they simply can't be equally fine as singers, the recordings or performances that rise or fall on the lead and the ensemble makes little impact. Not having been fortunate enough to have been one of the lucky ones that witnessed one of the seven sold out performances of this LA TRAVIATA at this year's Salzburg Festival, I am left only with a live recording probably garnered from several performances to catch a glimpse of what all the clamor from the European audiences was about. But this is enough to believe that this is probably one of the most intelligent and musically correct Traviatas available. Beginning with a sterling cast - the incomparably beautiful and musically gifted Anna Netrebko as Violetta, the equally handsome and gifted Rolando Villazon as Alfredo, and the always dashing and vocally distinguished Thomas Hampson as Germont - this is as credible as any Traviata staged. The staging in modern dress apparently worked in Salzburg but we have only a few photos in the 2 CD set to prove that. The orchestra is the venerable Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Carlo Rizzi, with no less than the Mozarteum Orchester providing the stage music. But the ingredients only serve as calling cards if the opera does not work as a whole, and here everything is in place. Anna Netrebko has a very rich lyric soprano voice and has an extraordinary range through which she sings most comfortably. If she does not opt for some of the high climax notes like say, Sutherland and the 'coloraturas', it does not impair the beauty of her interpretation of the beleaguered courtesan and her fall into consumption. But Netrebko is never less than lovely here and the drama of her voice and interpretation are exemplary. Likewise, Rolando Villazon has a tenor voice that grows better with each performance. His Alfredo is all impetuosity, smitten lover, and jealous stag - and his singing is stunningly beautiful. Add the exceptional musicality of Thomas Hampson singing Germont with complete conviction and elegance, and this cast is as fine as one could wish. If there are problems with this recording they are more focused on the podium where Rossi seems to favor brisk tempi a bit too frequently, not allowing the singers the space to be comfortable with their roulades. But remember this recording is from live performances and not a studio where every aria can be perfected with extra takes. This enhances the drama but does not give as sonorous a recorded sound as could be in a different hall or studio.The true beauty of this triumphant LA TRAVIATA will be obvious if a DVD of the performance is released. Rarely has a stage been filled with this much beauty of sound coming from such magnetic and attractive performers. Netrebko and Villazon have a wondrous magic as was so very obvious in this past season's LA Opera 'Romeo et Juliette' of Gounod. Let's hope they pair often! Highly recommended. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2010
Ok, fine. I've not heard this cd, BUT...I saw Netrebko and Villazon live in Romeo and Juliet at the LA Opera, and those two just about busted my girdle. What a team. Magnificent. I give a PRE-review of 5 stars, because I can't imagine anything those two do, together or singly, as anything but magnificent. I also have single cds by both artistsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.