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Verdi: La Traviata / Pappano/Royal Opera, Fleming, Calleja, Hampson [DVD]

Album Summary

>Verdi, Giuseppe : La traviata
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Verdi's best-loved work, is performed here by a star cast in a revival of Richard Eyre's highly acclaimed 1994 production. Music Director Antonio Pappano conducts La traviata for the first time at Covent Garden. American soprano Renée Fleming returns to Covent Garden to sing Violetta for the first time with The Royal Opera. La traviata was first performed at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice in March 1853.

"Rarely has this staging been presented as strongly as it is by its current cast, whom Eyre returns to direct. Renée Fleming is in complete command as Verdi's courtesan, facing down the awesome difficulties of her big first act solo scene with assurance and maintaining a strong tone inflected with appropriate colours. Dramatically, she is never short of initiative, occasionally of a stagey kind but more often delivered with a sense of conviction that goes to the heart of Violetta's emotional truth. In previous revivals, Joseph Calleja's Alfredo proved the complete vocalist but an indifferent actor. Here, in his newfound engagement with the character of Violetta's young lover, he takes several steps forward. Formerly stiff, he now presents an ideal combination of the vulnerable and the headstrong; when he hurls his winnings at Violetta in the gambling scene, his violence is genuinely shocking. Thomas Hampson's Germont retains some stock gestures when his arms take on a life of their own. But much of his performance is dramatically thought-through, and his singing is consistently empowered. Germont's big second-act aria, Di Provenza, can seem anticlimactic; here it is a genuine emotional highlight. Music director Antonio Pappano takes charge of this revival, searching out the meaning of Verdi's score in a supple, sentient reading that sweeps you along." -The Guardian

"I was sniffy about her first night but this DVD comes from later in the run, by which time she had found an uncharacteristic emotional freedom. She is still the prima donna playing the part, but the beautiful sounds she makes, especially in the Act One finale and the Act Two party, are well worth hearing, and the high-quality film-work puts us right at the heart of the action." -The Financial Times

"This is a sensible, believable, attractive presentation that is more in line with Verdi than with the idiocies of Regietheater...Vocally, [Fleming] is on good form at almost every turn... Calleja must sound authentic enough as an Italianate tenor for anyone...I always have the impression that [Pappano] works with the singers rather than challenging them to a duel. The chorus and orchestra respond fittingly to his direction." -International Record Review

"At the age of 50, [Fleming] still looks very good in the role of the doomed courtesan...[she] sounds good, too, singing with consistent skill...There's a sincerity to Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja's portrayal of Alfredo which gives it more spontaneity than his American colleagues supply...Stronger than the vocals is the conducting of Antonio Pappano, which possesses a natural stylishness and fluency" -BBC Music Magazine

The recorded sound and film quality are quite good, with the quality of the Blu-ray disc only marginally superior to that of the regular DVD; the camerawork is sensible if not exceptional; the costumes are of the period and... attractive and elegant; the ballet sequence at Flora's party is nicely staged.

This is Renée Fleming's second video of Verdi's opera... She still manages the coloratura of act one admirably, and is a superb actress. Thomas Hampson is a commanding Germont, and Joseph Calleja impresses as Alfredo although his fast vibrato is not to my taste - I much prefer Rollando Villazón in the 2006 performance. The chorus is superb, and conductor Pappanpo keeps things moving nicely. The Blu-Ray version is stunning visually, with excellent audio as well...

My Classical Notes
Renée Fleming has demonstrated to be one of the finest sopranos: a singer with a sparkling personality and a velvet voice that is capable of wringing the finest emotions out of works by Strauss and Verdi, and many other composers. She brings a distinct quality to the role of Violetta, with an emotional performance that is sure to please. She is nicely supported by Antonio Pappano's conducting of the Royal Opera House Orchestra in an effective production by Richard Eyre.

Opera Britanica
Gheorghiu's interpretation remains essential viewing, but Fleming's performance is almost as affecting, her support cast arguably stronger. It's always interesting to see how different singers interpret roles in a famous production; with three further revivals at Covent Garden next season, with four Violettas, further comparisons are invited. Picture quality and surround sound are, needless to report, up to Opus Arte's usual high standard. Fleming and Pappano are well used to appearing before the camera and their interview makes for an interesting extra feature where they discuss the role and Fleming articulates her ideas about legato in a fascinating exchange. Recommended.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 154 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, DTS 5.0 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian


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Works Details

>Verdi, Giuseppe : La traviata
  • Performers: Joseph Calleja (Tenor); Renée Fleming (Soprano); Thomas Hampson (Baritone); Eddie Wade (Baritone); Richard Wiegold (Bass)
  • Conductor: Anthony Pappano
  • Ensemble: Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1853