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La Traviata [Blu-ray]
La Traviata
Actors: Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazon, Thomas Hampson
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2009     2hr 30min

The infamous and uniquely compelling opera event of 2005 is now available on Blu-Ray DVD. The Salzburg Festival's La Traviata features the unforgettable performances of Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, and Thomas Hampson i...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazon, Thomas Hampson
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Music Video & Concerts, Classical
Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
Format: Blu-ray - Color
DVD Release Date: 05/26/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 2hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

A case of the Emperor's new clothes?... Lovely performances
dooby | 07/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is the by now famous and not a little controversial 2005 Salzburg Festival production of La Traviata. It's a live performance recorded over five nights at the Grosses Festspielhaus with the best bits spliced together to form this video. It was to all intents and purposes a tremendous success. The audio CD has already become the fastest selling opera CD in Austrian history. It earned platinum status earlier this year, a near miraculous feat for a full-length opera recording in this day and age.

The performances are almost universally outstanding. The star of this opera is without doubt the lovely Russian soprano Anna Netrebko who sings the role of Violetta. One critic called it "the Netrebko show." Besides a gorgeous voice, she is a stunning beauty and a joy just to look at. Rolando Villazon is also superb in his role as Alfredo. And Thomas Hampson makes a very distinguished Germont. There is little to fault here in terms of performance.

The production itself reflects a continuing tendency to reinterpret or reinvent opera. This is a post-modernist, ultra minimalist staging of Traviata. There is barely anything onstage except for 2 or 3 couches and a large clock. Most of the time you just see the bare white stage with the singers. The final scene takes place on a totally empty stage, with just the performers singing. I wonder if European audiences are really so sick of traditional operatic staging that they must resort to this stripdown version or is it more the case of pretentious avant-garde producers run amuck? I may be old fashioned but I still want to see some semblance of a set when I watch opera.

The fact that the performers are still able to hold the audience spellbound despite the utter paucity of the set and stage design, speaks volumes for the luminous quality of these perfomances. But I agree with the other reviewers here who wrote that this shouldn't be a first choice recommendation and should not be someone's first introduction to the opera. Someone new to the plot would be quite lost, as all the action takes place on the same 1 or 2 couches in front of the same large white clock.

The DVD is presented in the new widescreen format of 1.78:1 (enhanced for widescreen TV). Picture quality is excellent with sharp images and warm, vibrant, accurate colors. Black levels are perfectly set. Audio is available in 2.0 PCM Stereo (CD quality) and DTS 5.1. Sound is gorgeously rich and sumptuous. The original Italian libretto is included as optional subtitles, along with 5 other languages including English. The onscreen menu only allows direct access to the 3 Acts, although there are a total of 39 individual cues which you can navigate with your remote. The second disc contains about an hour's worth of extras, mainly a 43min documentary on the rehearsals with interviews of the participants, an introduction to the opera by Villazon and a trailer for Anna's other DVD - "The Woman, The Voice." There is a 30 page souvenir booklet with color photographs of the production as well as production notes and a detailed synopsis. My only criticism here is the packaging. For an expensive "Premium Edition" DVD, the carboard foldout format, without even a slipcase to hold it in, is disgraceful. I can't even put it on the shelf without it falling open and tipping over. Still it is good to finally have a memento of this lovely performance. Opera lovers who cannot bear the staging (or lack of it) may want to buy the audio CD instead."
Modernized Staging of Verdi Classic Is Truly Better Seen Tha
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 07/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With some reservations, I enjoyed the two-disc CD recording of this fulsome performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" released late last year. Under the direction of Carlo Rizzi leading the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic), the classic opera represents a prime opportunity to intertwine grand romantic melodrama with many of the composer's most famous arias and duets. Even though there are choruses and set pieces, it is really more a chamber opera, and you need three powerfully sculpted voices to make this a momentous occasion. Removing the visual element, the performance feels variable in spots despite the immense talent involved.

However, now that I can see and appreciate director Willi Decker's spare, modernist staging at the 2005 Salzburg Festival on this 2006 Deluxe Edition DVD package, the opera becomes a more emotionally transcendent experience. He takes the passing of time as his primary leitmotif in the form of a gigantic clock with Death taking an ever-present human form. The costuming is stylishly modern-dress, while the few color-coordinated set pieces would look appropriate in an Upper West Side art gallery. Based on Alexandre Dumas's play, "The Lady of the Camellias", the opera's tragic love story is the same in this adaptation, but the overall attitude reflects a greater sense of liberation with the period melodrama mostly excised. Purists will be offended, especially those married to the Callas or more recent Angela Gheorghiu versions.

As the passionate Violetta Valéry, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko is an inarguably stunning woman made for the camera. Less the courtesan of the classic version and more a hedonistic party girl (like a more melancholy Holly Golightly), parading in her deep red cocktail dress, she convincingly performs the role with alternating waves of gusto and poignancy. Vocally, Netrebko complements her fiery presence with an impressive performance that gives way to equal parts great passion and deep love once she discovers renewed life with her lover Alfredo. Offering shimmering roulades, she nails her much anticipated Act I climax, "E stano...Ah, fors'è lui...Sempre libera", and maximizes her lower register in her burnished handling of the final aria, "Gran dio! Morir si giovane!". Her less-than-perfect Italianate diction is not as problematic here as it is on CD when we are robbed of her beauty.

Given the dominance of Violetta, Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón more than holds his own with Netrebko as the smitten Alfredo. In fact, he is a better actor than she in displaying his character's tentative nature at the beginning, followed in turn by his swooning romanticism, seething anger and broken-hearted resignation. Displaying an exceptionally agile voice and an almost improvisational-sounding style in his phrasing and inflections, he brings his arsenal of skills together most effectively in his Act II opening, "Lunge de lei... De' miei bollenti spiriti...O mio rimorso". In this scene, Alfredo and Violetta prance around in persistent afterglow in their floral bathrobes on a matching floral sofa.

In fact, there is a great deal of physicality in the production to make the sexual tension reverberate, and the party-loving, black-suited chorus is equally as animated. All the while, Netrebko and Villazón generate true chemistry while blending seamlessly in their duets. American baritone Thomas Hampson comes across much better on the DVD than the CD, where he is recognizably the weak link. Looking more engaged onstage, he brings the appropriate emotional fervor to his confrontation scenes with Violetta and sounds effectively resolute in his ending aria in Act II, "Di provenza il mar, il suol". The death scene still seems too elongated for the drama preceding it, and Rizzi does not help with his lugubrious pacing at this juncture.

The entire opera is on the first disc of the 2006 two-DVD set, and it is blessedly captured with clarity both visually and aurally. The second disc contains a number of extras, the most important being a 45-minute behind-the-scenes featurette chronicling the painstaking preparation of the production. Netrebko and an especially precocious Villazón are interviewed throughout. Villazón also does a three-minute introduction of the opera in German, obviously done for its TV airing. There is an automatic slide show of photos from the production set to the "Brindisi", a Netrebko discography, and lastly, a ten-minute highlights segment of Netrebko's rather self-aggrandizing video collection, "The Woman...The Voice"."
Magnificent Young Performers Power a Provocative Staging
Janet Bedell | Baltimore, Maryland USA | 06/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Willi Decker's modern-dress staging of "La Traviata" will certainly not be to everyone's taste, but I found it worked surprisingly well in this DVD in which filmmaker Brian Large chooses to highlight the strongly played relationships between the three main characters through his emphasis on close ups. Even if the almost bare stage, with starkly symbolic objects like the huge clock ticking away Violetta's life and couches as the only furniture, might have seemed chilly in the theatre, this is still a story of a trio of people loving, ruining lives, suffering, and dying, and those passions come across with shocking strength on the screen. At the very least, this provocative staging will make you see this story and its protagonists in a fresh new way.

That's thanks to a wonderful cast who live their roles with all their might. People who think that the "Dream Couple" -- Netrebko and Villazón -- are an over-hyped media creation are just flat wrong. Yes, they get a lot of hype, but they deserve it. Both have beautiful voices that touch the heart, solid vocal techniques to back them up, and outstanding acting ability. That they're also great to look at is a wonderful bonus. I wish opera folks weren't so inclined to always bring up great singers of the past -- she's no Callas, he's no Corelli -- to put down the singers of the present. These two are brilliant in their own right and should be treasured for the extraordinarily fresh vitality they bring to the opera world.

Totally committed in her acting and singing, Anna Netrebko is a heartbreakingly vulnerable Violetta; her third act had me weeping. Rolando Villazón made Alfredo into a wonderfully believable young man in love: a somewhat immature and socially gauche young country boy who hates Violetta's nasty crowd (they're very nasty in this production!) but loves her with a winning, virile passion -- and a frightening touch of jealousy. His vibrant singing is very exciting, but unfortunately his big Act II cavatina doesn't achieve its full impact because of Decker's hyper staging here. No tenor should have to sing such a tough aria while pulling on his pants! The interpolated love scene in Act II between Violetta and Alfredo was actually a great addition because it shows us a little of the lovers' blissful relationship (which otherwise is something we have to take on faith) and it provides the only light moments in an otherwise rather grim staging. And it's delightfully spicy without being at all in bad taste!

I have more reservations about Thomas Hampson as Father Germont. Though his voice is rather thin and dry for Verdi, he sounds much better in the DVD then in the "Traviata" CD that was released last fall. And, though slightly too mannered and stilted, his acting of the domineering father is very strong and sometimes even touching as he realizes he's making a mess of things. His aria "Di Provenza il mar"comes across here as a harrowing piece of emotional blackmail rather than just a beautiful song.

My reservations come with some of Decker's heavy-handed use of symbols to tell what's really a very human story. I don't like the chorus all dressed as men, Violetta's tormenters. They come across as obnoxious cartoons rather than people, and the performance generally goes downhill when they're on.

The Vienna Philharmonic also does not come across as the great, subtle orchestra that it is. Chalk that up to conductor Carlo Rizzi I guess.

But where it really counts, this DVD scores. Get it for Netrebko and Villazón's performances if nothing else.

And try to get the Premium Edition with the bonus DVD with its delicious backstage at the rehearsals feature. Netrebko, Villazón and Decker are very candid and illuminating about what they're trying to achieve, and the two stars -- especially Villazón who is irrepressibly hilarious! -- provide a lot of laughs. Pompous diva and divo they're definitely not! Wonderfully entertaining!!

Stunning Performance
R. McLeman | Benoni South Africa | 11/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I make great use of customer's reviews when purchasing DVDs from Amazon, and I confess I got no guidance from the reviews on this product. They seemed to be split between rabidly pro-Villazon supporters, and traditionalists who don't like change. I purchased anyway, since I was interested in seeing these two young performers, Netrebko and Villazon, both of whom I have heard on CD.

I am so glad I did. This is a stunning performance!

I have the ROH/Solti/Gheorgiu DVD and I love it. I have spent hours listening to both, and I am gradually coming down more in favour of this Salzburg recording, mainly because of the performance by the two leads. I say performance deliberately, because the acting is every bit as good as the singing. The big difference between Covent Garden and Salzburg is Alfredo. Netrebko can hold her own with Gheorgiu, but Villazon is special. Thomas Hampson is fine, but this is the youngsters' show.

The production is not my ideal, but it works. The criticisms raised by others have some validity, but are circumstantial. Why argue about the validity of Germont's motive for breaking up the relationship; it's the fact of the break-up, and the unfairness of it, that matters.

Changing the period is often problematical. The sets and costumes are there to remind our lazy brains of the circumstances in which the drama unfolds, and we do need to keep in mind the circumstances of life in the period in which the opera is set, to understand mythology, witchcraft, curses, religious persecution, and, of course, the concept of honour.

With this performance, you will be so enthralled with the drama and music, that criticism of the period setting becomes petty carping.

Buy, and enjoy!