La traviata is one of the world's most popular operas. Its arias are instantly recognisable and have become staples for opera houses across the globe. Yet at its London premiere in 1856, La traviata was denounced for bringing 'the poetry of the brothel' to the stage and unleashing uncomfortable truths on Victorian society. Amanda Vickery and Tom Service reveal the extraordinary story behind the opera's first night in London and its scandalous heroine, the courtesan Violetta Valéry, whose dramatic life and tragic death were based on real-life characters and events.
This recording of LA TRAVIATA is the third one in my collection (the other two being the Cotrubas/Kleiber and the Callas/Giulini recordings), and am I glad I bought it! As superb as those other two recordings are, I actually LIKE this one the most. It is an all-around excellent performance. Bergonzi's is possibly the finest Alfredo on any complete recording; Merrill is perfectly suited to Germont; Pritchard paces the opera beautifully; the recorded sound is spacious, with lots of atmosphere in the party scenes. But the real surprise of the recording is Sutherland. She brings all of her distinctive gifts to the role of Violetta: a ripe, beautiful voice; supreme coloratura ability; a talent for conveying pathos…
La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi very personal opera, was premiered in 1853 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. The first night was a fiasco, but after a few revisions the opera set out to conquer the world. La Traviata offers no scope for grandiose crowd scenes or historical pomp. In keeping with the intimate nature of the action, Verdi’s music reflects the inner feelings of the protagonists. The heroine, whose emotional state is determined by external circumstances, is in the centre of the story of emotional upheavals. Jürgen Flimm haunting staging stays close to Verdi’s intent. He focuses on the protagonists, showing their shakiness, emotions, despair, love, sacrifice and tragedy rather than concentrating on the abysses of the Parisian demi-monde. Eva Mei and Piotr Beczala are a perfectly matched couple. Her soft and flexible soprano and his lyrical tenor, marked by excellent diction, work very well together, joined by the “golden” voice of outstanding Thomas Hampson.
Diana Damrau’s primacy as an interpreter of Violetta Valéry in La traviata can be inferred from the names of theatres where she has performed Verdi’s most popular opera: the Metropolitan, New York; La Scala, Milan; London’s Royal Opera House; the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and the Zurich Opera. Paris’s Opéra Bastille joined that list of leading houses in June 2014, when the German soprano appeared in a new production by the film director Benoît Jacquot.
“A moving performance, well cast and with sympaethetic conducting from Carlo Rizzi…Shicoff is in splendid voice, phrasing and shaping his big set-pieces sensitively, and Edita Gruberova makes a moving Violetta.” (Penguin Guide)