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La Traviata at La Scala
La Traviata at La Scala
Actors: Angela Gheorghiu, Ramon Vargas, Roberto Frontali, Lorin Maazel
Director: Liliana Cavani
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     2hr 14min

This 2007 production of Verdi?s La Traviata from Milan?s La Scala, with world-class singers and Lorin Maazel on the podium belongs among the best of the many fine DVD versions available. Its prime draw is soprano Angela Gh...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Angela Gheorghiu, Ramon Vargas, Roberto Frontali, Lorin Maazel
Director: Liliana Cavani
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, DTS, Musicals & Performing Arts
Studio: Arthaus Musik
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 09/30/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 14min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Italian, Japanese, English, German, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

A Superb Traviata
David D. Dollinger | Pasadena, CA | 10/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This new DVD from Arthaus faces formidible competition from Gheorghiu's first Violetta on Decca; this was her "double" debut, both on DVD and CD. It was her first undertaking of the role and clearly she meant to make it her own. The conductor, Solti, allows for the second verses to arias that are either frequently cut (O mio rimorso and Addio del passato) and includes the cabaletta to Di provenza--not one of Verdi's most inspired moments.

This new DVD uses sets that were new in 1990 although I don't think anyone could lodge a complaint in this area: they are opulent, plush and quite gorgeous. The conservative opera goer will have no complaint here. If memory serves me correctly this is the same production that featured Tiziana Fabriccini, an interpretation that was very controversial, Roberto Alagna and Paolo Coni and conducted by Muti. It should be re-released by whoever has the licensing rights.

Gheorghiu matches all the excellences of her earlier performance. She always looks stunning, sings beautifully and is an accomplished actress. I can't think of any other singer who has this role in her repertoire could match this diva. Yes, it's true that she doesn't take the optional high D at the end of the first act aria, but that's what it is: an option. Her performance is nuanced and touching. I have heard some of Fleming's performance but I find her superficial and dramatically utterly uninvolved. (A downside to the LOs Angeles DVD is Bruson who in his prime was a baritone to be reckoned with; here, at 70 (!) his tone is partched and is afflicted with a wobble which is very distressing.)

Vargas is a great improvement over Lopardo who is somewhat wooden and appears uncomfortable. The former would never be accused of being a great actor but his instincts are always right and while not being "handsome" he has a cherubic sweetness that is very engaging. He has clearly thought out the requirements of the music and brings a great deal of imagination. A pity that the second verse of O mio rimorso was cut as it spoils the musical balance that Verdi was aiming for. (Gheorghiu was also denied her second verse in the Addio del passato.)

Frontali is a vast improvement over Nucci who by rights should be able to shine in this role; the latter became a "Verdi baritone" by default. His milieu is clearly in the Donizetti/Bellini/Rossini operas. the voice is slender, but well focused, but I prefer Fontali's bigger more rugged sound. Of course he has no competition--at least none that I know of on the horizon.

Initially I had my doubts about Maazel. In the 70's (I am hazarding a guess)he recorded Traviata with Lorengar, Aragall and DFD. It was a near complete text if I recall, but Decca management doubtless came down with the mandate to get it on two LP discs. As a result the tempi were brutal in many cases and even though the set did garner some good reviews I have no doubt that it was due to Lorengar. Here Maazel seems much more relaxed and at one with the score. In short one of the best performances of Traviata that I have heard.

For those who want or require a regie Traviata stay away. There is no Konzept here. I would dearly love to see the Venice performance (again Maazel I believe) and even though what I have seen of Villazon/Netrebko is more than offputting (more due to Rizzi who seems to be this generation's Molinari-Pradelli). The cover on the Bel Aire DVD is a Maryln Monroe 'manque"--not the association I make with Traviata. OTOH if a conventionally staged, directed production of this opera is what you want I can only recommend this new set."
Excellent TRAVIATA Despite Controversy
An Opera Fan | New York,U.S.A. | 10/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Puccini - La Boheme (The Metropolitan Opera HD Live Series)
The opening night of this production at La Scala last year was greeted by controversy that got the star soprano and conductor lustily booed by the angry audience. The Italian papers came up with some speculations as to why that nasty audience response happened. When I first looked at the cover of this DVD, the first thing I noticed was the pretty picture of Angela Gheorghiu ; the next, the names of Ramon Vargas and Roberto Frontali were printed significantly smaller than the names of the soprano and conductor Lorin Maazel. I thought it was in bad taste and slighted the other two principals who are top Verdi singers of this generation with distinguished operatic careers. After listening to the performance on this DVD, I thought I had a better take on the controversy than those Italian papers. My theory is that the soprano and conductor hatched a
scheme to do something on that first night performance that would surely enrage the passionate La Scala audience and make themselves the wronged victims. In a subsequent performance used for this DVD, they performed tremendously, and the guilt-ridden and contrite boo birds apologized with huge ovations for them, which was the object of their plot to sell this DVD. But to further reward the conspirators by printing their names much larger than everyone else is going too far. Having said that, the performance here is superb.

Despite some negative comments in the papers about the 20-yr old production sets used here, I prefer it to the Met's Zeffirelli production with its extremes and some garishness particularly in Act2. It's a relief to see Violetta in her last moments in a modest but decent surroundings, not in some dilapidated warehouse. All principals are in top form. As noted earlier, Vargas and Frontali are preeminent Verdi singers and great choice as the Germonts. Gheorghiu is not a typical or traditional Verdi soprano (the likes of Tebaldi, Freni or even Moffo) but she has a beautiful, expressive voice with dark shades for a wide range of expressions and is a very convincing actress. With sensitive and generous partners in Vargas, Frontali and Maazel, she can be a marvelous Violetta as demonstrated on this disc. My little complaint is the stage direction and coaching that let Vargas do a lot of distracting things while singing his one aria in Act2 - looking for cup and saucer, pouring his coffee, and singing his one-verse O Mio Rimorso while lugging a suitcase and rummaging through some unmentionables looking for a document. Miraculously, he did not miss a beat and sang with his customary elegance and vibrancy in rich and burnished tones. For the most part, the singing and acting of the three principals, the contributions of everyone, comprimarios, dancers, chorus, orchestra and , of course, the crafty Maazel throughout the opera - all make this brilliant DVD a must have and worthy addition to everyone's collection of this wonderful opera."
All three principals shine but it's Angela Gheorghiu's show
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 10/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In Gheorghiu's 1994 performance of La Traviata from Covent Garden (also on DVD), her singing of Violetta is fresh and captivating but you're aware that she's concentrating on the music (which is not a criticism). In this 2007 La Scala production, thirteen years more mature as a performer, she just lets loose while at the same time achieving extraordinary precision in her phrasing and in her interpretation of the role. Her performance can only be described as a "tour de force." She performs the role as if she owns it. I've never seen "E strano" and "Sempre libera" sung with such unbridled confidence. The expression on her face during the curtain call to Act I tells us she knows she nailed it. Immodest, she is not (as another reviewer pointed out).

But don't let that put you off because onstage, where it matters, Gheorghiu gives one of the most dominating opera performances I've seen. Every note is sung with clear intention. Her one minute "aria," the cry "Amami, Alfredo," accompanied by fiery orchestration, dominated by the timpani (which reappears with heartrending effect in the final bars of the opera), is worth the price of the DVD alone. It's a powerful and heartbreaking moment.

As if Gheorghiu's performance were not enough to recommend this production, I think it offers the best threesome available in Traviata on DVD. As Alfredo, Ramon Vargas may not be as expressive an actor as, for example, Rolando Villazon, but Vargas creates a touching and vulnerable Alfredo and possesses a wonderfully rich and full voice. The word "burnished" is more often used to describe a baritone, but it applies to Vargas' tenor voice. Just listen to his Act III duet with Gheorghiu, "Parigi, o cara," and you'll hear that exceptional quality to which I refer. He is far superior to Frank Lopardo who is on Gheorghiu's 1994 Traviata. Lopardo is so wooden onstage that he's not believable as her lover.

Roberto Frontali is the best Germont I've seen on DVD. Germont is often played by baritones who are too young to be Alfredo's father. These otherwise fine performers appear stiff and uncomfortable in a role that requires them to play a much older man (Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Thomas Hampson come to mind, the former in the La Fenice Traviata featuring Patrizia Ciofi and the latter in the Salzburg production featuring Anna Netrebko). But Frontali is perfect for the role. His rich bass-baritone voice just rings out in "Di Provenza." It contrasts beautifully with Gheorghiu's soprano; their duet in Act II is one of the highlights of the production.

As always, the La Scala chorus is precise in its execution and beautiful in sound. It excels on all the La Scala DVD's I own. The concertato finale to Act II, with Gheorghiu's voice soaring above the chorus, is riveting.

I guess the thrust of this review is clear: if you're an Angela Gheorghiu fan, this production is not to be missed. Add to that the stellar performances by Vargas, Frontali, the chorus, the orchestra under the baton of Lorin Maazel, and this is the best La Traviata currently available on DVD."
Prima Donna Assoluta?
Stanley H. Nemeth | Garden Grove, CA United States | 11/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Four and 1/2 stars actually, if Amazon provided that option. The sets, costumes, conducting, and singing of Vargas and Frontali are as fine as the other commentators here have claimed them to be. I draw the line, though, at the raving over Gheorghiu. It's unusual ever to hear the role of Violetta sung anywhere near close to perfection, and one doesn't experience it, sorry to say, in Gheorghiu's performance. The role calls for a prima donna assoluta, and what may have been intended by this designation was that great rarity, a singer who combined the coloratura skills demanded in Act I with the large, warm body of tone called for in Acts II and III. The role calls, that is, for a Galli-Curci coupled with a Tebaldi. It is in the demands of Act I that Gheorghiu falls way short of ideal. Nobody, I believe, would seriously argue that her "Sempre Libera" in this performance is one of extraordinary brilliance. Though the emotional scene preceding it is convincing, the aria itself is marred by coloratura passages more gulped or yelped than beautifully or memorably sung. One can argue that the aria's concluding top note is only an option, but it doesn't follow that its absence is therefore not a disappointment, since it provides a perfect climax to the escalating, feverish energy coming just before it. It's been mentioned that Gheorghiu looks immodestly self-satisfied in the curtain calls after Act I. Unfortunately, I think there was at this point much for her to be modest about.
Happily, Gheorghiu does come into her own in Acts II and III, but her total performance, I'd argue, is not one for the history books. If hers is the best Violetta currently on DVD, so much the worse for the other recorded contemporary portrayers of the role."