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Verdi: La Traviata - Legendary Covent Garden Performance 20 June 1958

Album Summary

>Verdi, Giuseppe : La traviata
Conductor Ensemble
  • >

Notes & Reviews:

Maria Callas needs no introduction, as she was quite simply one of the greatest singers of the 20th century. Any recording is of major importance and this Traviata from 1958 given in London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden is no exception. Peter Heyworth in the Observer commented, 'it was a performance of outstanding distinction and musicality, full of details that illuminated again and again the part as though for the first time'. The recording has been remastered by Paul Baily.

"Maria Callas's Violetta was one of the wonders of our age: scarily elemental, supernaturally brilliant...Callas sounds less full-voiced, more restrained, than in her 1958 Lisbon performance, but the combination of vocal depth and fragile, eloquent virtuosity is unbeatable and the emotional collapse across the three acts is heartbreaking...Nicola Rescigno's conducting lifts the performance to the highest level. A classic indeed." -The Observer

Bay Area Reporter
I'm prepared to call it the best available modern recording of Traviata, bar none. The performance comes three months after the more famous "Lisbon" Traviata, and puts that fine performance in the shade.

... of all the Callas Traviata recordings out there, the Covent Garden performance is the finest from her and her colleagues - and it has now been issued in better sound than any prior version. You cannot be serious about Verdi and not own this recording.

For those who are not familiar with this performance, all I can say is that despite its 1958 monaural sound (apparently not from a broadcast, probably recorded live in the house), and despite what were traditional cuts in that era, this is a necessity for anyone who cares about Verdi and/or La traviata. For those who already have this performance on Myto, the question will be about the quality of this transfer. I spent a lot of time doing direct A-B comparisons, and then also listened to each one through from beginning to end. For me, ICA's is distinctly preferable. It is true that ICA seems to have cut the high frequencies a bit, but I think that is to the benefit of the recording, as the Myto sounds to me a bit hard-edged, and it wears on you over the length of the opera. On the other hand, the warmer and richer sound of the ICA is a positive both for Callas's voice and the orchestral sonority.

ICA makes the following claim: "ICA Ambient Mastering creates a sense of space and width to a mono, or very narrow stereo, recording. No artificial reverberation is added in this process, so that it remains faithful to the natural acoustic of the original." I do not know what the "ambient mastering" process entails, but in fact by the end of the opera, I found ICA's transfer a far more satisfying experience. This is a serious Want List candidate for year's end. As is normal for specialty recordings like this, no libretto is included, but there are fine notes about the performance.

BBC Music Magazine
To begin with Callas is on edgy form, and some of her high notes are strained and incipiently wobbly. But after Act I, in which she still does many wonderful things, her performance is on level which no other soprano compares with. The scene with Germont is overwhelming, and her immense affirmation of love to Alfredo is al almost unbearably intense. In the last Act it is a question of how closely, as a listener, you can bear art to approach life - she sounds as if she is dying, you almost feel ashamed to be witnessing it. This is art at its absolute limit, and a unique document.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (06/20/1958).


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Works Details

>Verdi, Giuseppe : La traviata
  • Conductor: Nicola Rescigno
  • Notes: Composition written: 1853.
  • Running Time: 4 min. 1 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1853