Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Verdi La Traviata |
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
This DVD documents a 1973 live performance of La Traviata in Tokyo featuring Renata Scotto, an established star, and the young Josť Carreras, at the start of his international career. Scotto was known for the intensity of ... more »
Idiomatic Traviata of some historic import
Albert Innaurato | Philadelphia Pa | 06/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Two of the singers here went on to make news in the 70's, 80's and in Carreras' case well beyond, as he prolonged his career after a serious illness and vocal crisis (not related)to become one of the 'three tenors'. Here he is in his very early prime when he was actually making news as a handsome young tenor with a gorgeous lyric voice.
Renata Soctto had already sung professionally for 20 years as an 'old fashioned' lyric coloratura, with recordings of Traviata, Boheme, Lucia and, most famous perhaps in America, Madama Butterfly. But in 1974, a year after this Traviata, she would 'return' to the Met as Elena in I Vespri Siciliani. I was at that performance, and the audience greeted her with hysteria. She went on to become the diva of the Met for about ten years, singing roles heavier than anyone would have imagined, including all three roles in Puccini's Trittico (a triumph), Elisabetta in Don Carlo (debated but in the main enthusiastically received)and then less fortunately in Norma where she was heavily booed on opening night. By then she was thought past her best but continued until a final Butterfly. She did not get a farewell, nor did she perform roles she sang to some acclaim elsewhere after she left the Met, The Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, Kundry, Klytemnestra and Fedora.
In the later 70's she did however participate in the first live telecast from the Met, a Boheme with Luciano Pavarotti (about whom she had a well televised tantrum on TV, after a performance of La Gioconda in San Francisco where he arrived not knowing his role and then on opening night ran out to take the last call, which she thought rightfully hers). That Boheme is available on an excellent DVD and both she and the tenor are magical. She also telecast a lean sounding but affecting Desdemona in Otello with Jon Vickers and a late in the day but still effective Trittico (both circulate 'underground' but perhaps will eventually be released commercially).
Sesto Bruscantini was thought of as a great singer in Italy and sang both bass and baritone roles, sometimes in the same period in the same opera! He was much appreciated in England especially as a Mozartian but did not make a big international career. He was about 52 at this time.
This performance has of course circulated 'unofficially' but VAI has a mint copy from the Japanese archives, and it is wonderful looking and sounding. The picture is very clear, with good color resolution, and camera work is highly proficient with well judged close ups. The production is far more handsome than was usually true of the well documented Italian productions in Japan, even if some the stage direction for chorus and supporting players looks clumsy.
The sound is the most important aspect of this particular release. It is in excellent broadcast stereo -- the balance of voices and orchestra is exceptional and flattering to the singers. One can also hear the voices bouncing around the opera house, so one has far more perspective on the actual sounds they were making than in earlier incarnations.
Carreras gives the most straightforward performance, he was never better than here, the sweetness of tone, the ease of vocal production, the fine phrasing are all things that would become less reliable in later years as he started forcing his voice and moved into a heavy rep. He is also genuine on stage, and his boyish good looks are really rare in tenors.
Bruscantini sounds much better here than in the earlier 'pirates'. The sound allows one to hear his voice as well produced and on the note, with enough heft for the climaxes (on the most accessible pirate he sounds flat and small). It's not as glamorous a sound as many will expect in this role (a specialty after all of the gorgeous sounding Robert Merrill who recorded it three times, let's not forget Leonard Warren and Ettore Bastianini for starters). But he and Scotto are superb in their second act confrontation, and his Di provenza is a very artful and nuanced piece of singing. After that a tendency for his tone to turn gruff and slip under pitch can be noticed but none of the later singing is so important.
Mature Scotto will always be somewhat controversial. On her first commercial recording of Traviata (with Votto, not the much later one with Muti)she has a wonderful sweetness and spin in the sound and her voice is better equalized. Her voice has clearly grown here and is no longer as responsive or as sweet. Act one doesn't work ideally for her, for toward the top of her range the tone has hardened, and though she tries, she can't really float and some effects misfire.
In the second act though she is marvelous. She has a strong interpretation of the role, perhaps taking a cue from the youthful Carreras she plays Violetta as older and tougher than we normally see (Scotto was also plumper in this period than she was to become, she camouflages that with capacious costumes that sometimes get in her way). This woman who is after all a fancy prostitute does indeed know the seamier side of life and has suddenly and unexpectedly found a kind of innocent bliss. Of course the moment she realizes the older gentleman who has come calling is her lover's father she understands that not just her love but her life is threatened. She also knows that in providing the young man with a country idyll she has gone broke. She is hostile and defiant and Bruscantini plays off her approach perfectly. He is dignified but icy. He keeps his gloves in his hands as though barely able to resist putting them back on, he fears she might infect him is what he conveys. Though his character is given some sympathetic things to say and after all is grateful she isn't harder to handle, he can't wait to leave and makes sure he is very far away when she asks to embrace him, an embrace that pointedly never happens. She gives in, 'dite alla giovane' is murmured fatalistically and privately, and again Bruscantini matches his tone and dynamics to hers. When she cries out she will die of this sacrifice ("morro!")she lets her full mature voice out with immense impact. When she bids farewell to Alfredo a little later, again the new size of her voice and the intensity of her delivery are very moving.
In the last act she takes as her cue the cry of "e tardi!" -- "it's too late". Addio del passato and indeed her dealing with Alfredo who surprises her by showing up (father not far behind) has a slightly ironic edge -- she doesn't really expect to live to enjoy Paris, and again when she collapses knowing death is nearer than even she had dreamed (gran dio, morrir si giovane) her force is far beyond the pathetic qualities we often get. She is not afraid to show bitterness, even barely suppressed rage, and both her voice and her wonderfully pointed words support her well.
There certainly are more vulnerable and sweeter sounding Violettas but this one is very special.
There is quite a stylish supporting cast and a solid conductor. The Japanese chorus has been well coached musically, somewhat less so dramatically.
I wouldn't be without this Traviata but I gave it four stars simply because not everyone will like what Scotto does, or how she sounds at some moments of shrillness and edginess."
A close to ideal Traviata
David D. Dollinger | Pasadena, CA | 08/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Initially I was reluctant to write this review since I would be following Albert Innaurato's but then I figured what the hell, why not? especially since he is so spot on and the performance is so marvelous. My only regret is that every standard cut that could be made at the time was made. Considering that the opera is not that long and surely all the singers would have been up to a more inclusive text, I have often wondered why these cuts existed for so long. No matter since what is left is as close to a "Traviata Perfection" that I can't imagine it being bettered. I was surprised to find Bruscantini singing the Elder Germont; it is not a "beautiful" voice but it is Italian and as a consequence is fully integrated into the production. I would have preferred Zanasi (from the Tokyo Lucia)but what we are given is well worth the investment. Since the Japanese subtitles cannot be eliminated I opted for no subtitles to be added. For most auditors I would think subtitles for this opera (ditto Boheme, Tosca, etc.)would not be necessary.
I wish Sony/BMG would release the Traviata with Fabriccini and Alagna. It is a conventional production from Scala, and a fuller text. Paolo Coni would not be my ideal Germont, but he is at least acceptable. The "regie" productions from Fenice, Salzburg, et.al. sound most unappealing even though the singing has been applauded. In the meantime it is more than easy to "make do" with Scotto or Gheorghiu."