Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Verdi - La Traviata / Norah Amsellem Jose Bros Renato Bruson Maria Espada Jesus Lopez Cobos Madrid Opera|
Actors: Itxaro Mentxaka, Pier Luigi Pizzi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Pier Luigi Pizzi's Madrid 'Traviata'
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 07/18/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This 2-DVD 2005 production of La Traviata at Madrid's Teatro Real was designed and directed by Pier Luigi Pizzi. It caused a scandal before it was premiered because diva Angela Gheorghiu, originally scheduled to sing Violetta, walked out of the production after one rehearsal saying that Pizzi's production was 'vulgar.' I have to admit that having seen the production there is little that fits that description except that there are two brief episodes of female nudity. In the first scene, in the distant background, a topless woman is seen from the back as she looks into a mirror and adjusts her makeup. And in the Gypsy scene in Act II there are some dancers who are topless, but discreetly so. Be that as it may, Norah Amsellem, an American-trained French soprano who was scheduled to sing the role after the first few done by Gheorghiu, made a fine Violetta and that's who we see in this DVD.
The production is set in Paris in Nazi-occupied Paris. That dictates the art deco sets and the costumes and hairstyles, but is not made much of otherwise; e.g., there are some Nazi officers in the opening party scene. (As a physician I kept thinking that if it were set only five years later Violetta's tuberculosis could have been cured by the newly available streptomycin. But then we wouldn't have an opera, would we?) The sets and costumes are simply stunning, I must say. There are very clean lines in the sets, and the costumes, while luxurious, are very tasteful. The party scene in Act I is done primarily in cream and black and is extremely effective. The love nest in Act II is done in stark white with primary blue accents. Costumes are true to the period but of the most elegant cut. Ms Amsellem is a beautiful woman who nonetheless in Act III manages to look terminally ill. Not since the 'Traviata' film with Teresa Stratas have I seen such a convincing transformation.
Musically the opera is in good hands. Jesús López Cobos is a sensitive Verdi conductor and clearly breathes with his singers. The Madrid Symphony Orchestra is fine and both preludes are beautifully done. Amsellem has some strain in the first act coloratura. There is some steel in the voice and yet she is able to fine down to a ravishing pianissimo in 'Dite alla giovine' and 'Addio del passato.' She and the Alfredo, José Bros, are extremely effective in 'Parigi, o cara' in Act III; strangely there was no applause after that duet and I have to imagine that it was because the audience was so moved that they greeted it with reverent silence. Bros, a tenor I'd not heard of before, is an elegant singer if a bit unsubtle as an actor. The only criticism I'd make is that he didn't make the most of 'De' miei bollenti spiriti.' In the duets, though, he is superb and an equal partner of Amsellem.
The venerable Renato Bruson makes a believable Giorgio Germont. He has always been a fine actor but his once shining baritone is a bit worn now. That may be more or less appropriate for an older character like Alfredo's father, but one hungers for a fuller, rounder sound in such lovely things as 'Pura siccome un angelo' and 'Di Provenza il mar, il suol.' The lesser characters were all well-taken.
I have not seen the new DVD with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon. One can imagine that musically it must be exceptional, but I've heard that the set and direction are a bit outré.
I will recommend this DVD with the caveat that Amsellem is a bit lacking in the first act (but comes on like gangbusters in Acts II and III) and that Bruson is a bit disappointing vocally. Otherwise, I loved this production. Visually it is a treat and is filmed exceptionally clearly. Sound is also fine in either Stereo or DTS 5.1. There is a brief interview with López Cobos and another with Amsellem, Bros and Bruson. They don't add a lot but are pleasant enough.
Amsellem will make you weep!
Richard M. Raub | Colorado Springs, CO USA | 01/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This production does not quite meet the extraordinary vocal standard of the Netrebko-Villazon Salzburg version. HOWEVER, Norah Amsellem breaks my heart just a little more. Visually she is breathtaking in her characterization. The final act is emotionally devastating (in a good way, of course). Here, Renato Bruson is so much better suited for Germont père than is Thomas Hampson; he brings a lifetime of Verdi experience to his singing and portrayal, and looks the part much more believably aged than the dopey job of makeup the Salzburg production offers. There he looks barely older than his son. Bruson is a "real" Verdi baritone. Bros is a perfectly adequate Alfredo--until you've heard Villazon. Bottom line: this dvd is worth every penny just for Amsellem, and the stage production is wonderful too. I would not want to be without both productions."
Bartolome Mesa Gil | Malaga, SPAIN | 12/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very beautiful and moving realization of an opera so familiar that seems imposible to do anymore without being redundant or inadequate. Without going to the minimalist extreme of the Salzburg production with Netrebko and Villazón (which I happen to like too), this Madrid version is innovative and extremely effective visually, with goodlooking 1940's sets and striking lighting, which illuminates the predicament of the protagonists in a way that I have rarely seen in opera. Amsellem proved to be a great Violetta vocally, looking the part and being extraordinarily beleivable in the dying scene. Bross has a beautiful tenor voice, ideal for Alfredo, and his singing of the Parigi o cara duet was sheer perfection. Good conducting and excellent sound. A Traviata to treasure."
David Bresch | Philadelphia | 11/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I caught this on HDTV: Norah Amsellem is both gorgious and a fabulous singer. When I say fabulous, I do not mean that she has the vocal resources of young Callas or Ponselle, I mean that taken together her vocal and acting portrayal make for an extremely moving performance. The criticisms that I read on UTube are correct, she does sing off-tune in Act I. But who cares? The notes are all there and well supported. Verdi is not about fioritura anyway, but drama. Acts 2 and 3 are a different kettle of fish anyway, and the woman's singing is sensitive in every way possible. We all know the libretto by heart and in our mind we hope for certain musical points, all of which she hits, just like Callas and Ponselle did. Plus, and I am sorry to be so direct, but what Violetta has this woman's body? Her portrayal makes Violetta the woman-to-be-desired that she must be, worth all the fuss that men make over her."