Notes and Editorial Reviews
This stunning new Traviata, fresh from the stage of the Salzburg Festival last summer (2005), is a performance to live with...Anna Netrebko's Violetta is significant. On her recent recital CD she sang some chirpy coloratura repertoire--her calling card/fach of choice up until now--but she also included Desdemona's Willow Song and Ave Maria and darkened her middle voice sufficiently to make the grand scena enormously effective. Here she seems to have it all--almost.
Her charisma comes through even on disc; the voice is gorgeous; she uses dynamics and breath to great dramatic effect (even if the frequent breathing seems like a way to increase volume at times). She exudes an aura of fragility and melancholy even in the first-act
duet with Alfredo, and her impetuous launch into the bridge after a lovely "Ah, fors'e lui" is vivid and telling, though the coloratura is smudged. "Sempre libera" is stunning and she avoids the interpolated E-flat at the end--perhaps a clue as to which direction her fach is headed.
She's authoritative at the start of the second act, nicely withdrawn in "Die alla goivane", and manages a grand, broad "Amami, Alfredo" with the help of some big, deep breaths before each phrase. The Gambling Scene is a bit lightweight. After a small but successful letter reading, she sings both verses of "Addio del passato" with great feeling and just-right tone, but she ends each verse on a sweet, soft pianissimo that just happens to be flat. She misses an opportunity with "Gran dio! Morir si giovane!"--she may still be a size too small to pull it off--but the opera's final moments are properly touching. Her entire portrayal lingers with appreciation and warmth in the mind despite her dreadful Italian diction--we too often find ourselves playing "name that vowel" to forget it.
There are no complaints to be made about the Alfredo of Rolando Villazon. He is being compared favorably with Domingo, but I will go further: Domingo was (is) a remarkable singer and musician, but we do not remember him for his great ideas about a role as we do, say, Jon Vickers. Villazon has ideas, and furthermore, his voice is both more pliable and more colorful than Domingo's. In the thoroughly realistic dialogue before "Un di felice..." his tentative attitude is charming, and he's fervent and thoughtful in the duet itself.
His second-act aria is long-breathed and raptly delivered, tones tapered with true sensitivity to music and text. He sounds hypnotically involved. "O mio rimorso" is filled with wild emotion and capped with an impeccable high-C, and you can practically see him trembling as he reads Violetta's note later on. He's animalistic and truly terrifying in the Gambling Scene without distorting the vocal line. There's something of di Stefano's passion in Villazon, but his voice is darker and larger and so there's never the same sense of strain. And Villazon's last act is as sad and rueful as I've heard it. Throughout, he and Netrebko sing together as Nureyev and Fonteyn danced--ideal partners, full of similar subtleties--making the performance hard to resist. They have more chemistry than Gheorghiu and Alagna. Wow!
The fly in the ointment is the Germont of Thomas Hampson. I don't mind his portrayal--he's a very angry Germont who spits out syllables as if they were poison darts--but his voice has utterly lost its luster, and let's face it, he never was a Verdi baritone. At times his piano singing wins the day, but mostly the voice is dry, and his cabaletta after "Di provenza" is so taxing that he sounds as if he's about to collapse. And his entrance after Alfredo so potently denounces Violetta, while it should be entirely authoritative, has conviction but the sound is that of a comprimario: a Marullo in Rigoletto's clothing. Sorry to say it, but it's true. The remainder of the cast neither impresses nor depresses.
Carlo Rizzi's leadership is bizarrely fast at times--his orchestra and chorus can't quite find each other in the chorus preceding "E strano", and the Gypsies and matadors sound vaguely insane; but his pair of young lovers can keep up with him and the excitement in the Gambling Scene is palpable. The death scene, however, is lugubrious in the extreme and seems somewhat bloated. The Vienna Philharmonic is positively aglow.
The sound is excellent despite stage noises, and if this really was taped live at the Salzburg Festival, then the notoriously quiet audience has lived up to its reputation. Indeed, they may have been stuffed and mounted: no coughing, no applause, no nothing. Of course, you can't live without recordings by Callas (1955, with di Stefano, under Giulini) or Sutherland (with Bergonzi), but Netrebko's Violetta and Villazon's Alfredo are extraordinary and can stand up to the best.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi
Luigi Roni (Bass),
Helene Schneiderman (Mezzo Soprano),
Salvatore Cordella (Tenor),
Paul Gay (Baritone),
Anna Netrebko (Soprano),
Diane Pilcher (Mezzo Soprano),
Herman Wallen (Baritone),
Dritan Luca (Tenor),
Wolfram Igor Derntl (Tenor),
Rolando Villazón (Tenor),
Thomas Hampson (Baritone)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,
Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra
Written: 1853; Italy
Date of Recording: 08/2005
Venue: Live Festspielhaus, Salzburg, Austria
Length: 3 Minutes 38 Secs.
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