Verdi: La Traviata / Peterson, Rutherford, Varano, Evans [Blu-ray]

Release Date: 11/15/2011
Label: Arthaus Musik
Catalog Number: 108036
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Conductor: Tecwyn Evans
Number of Discs: 1

Physical Format:

Low Stock
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on standard DVD

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Giuseppe Verdi

Violetta Valéry – Marlis Petersen
Flora Bervoix – Kristina Antonie Fehrs
Annina – Fran Lubahn
Alfredo Germont – Giuseppe Varano
Giorgio Germont – James Rutherford
Gastone – Taylan Memioglu
Barone Douphol – Ivan Oreš?anin
Marchese d'Obigny – David McShane
Dottor Grenvil – Konstantin Sfiris

Graz Opera Chorus
(chorus master: Berhard Schneider)
Graz Philharmonic Orchestra
Tecwyn Evans, conductor

Peter Konwitschny, stage director
Johannes Leiacker, set and costume designer
Joachim Klein, lighting designer

Recorded live from the Oper Graz, 2011.

- La Traviata in Graz – an introduction by Ioan Holender. Including interviews with Peter Konwitschny and Marlis Petersen as well as backstage and rehearsal footage.

Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Korean
Running time: 110 mins (opera) + 20 mins (bonus)
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 25)



VERDI La traviata Tecwyn Evans, cond; Marlis Petersen ( Violetta ); Giuseppe Varano ( Alfredo ); James Rutherford ( Germont ); Kristina Antonie Fehrs ( Flora ); Graz PO & Op Ch ARTHAUS MUSIC 101 587 (DVD: 110:00 opera, 20:00 bonus); 108 036 (Blu-ray: 130:00) Live: Graz 2011

I used to believe Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata was well-nigh indestructible. With a poignant love story that just about everyone is a sucker for, and one of the best-loved scores in opera, it perennially provides sold-out performances and opera-house intendants with healthy box offices. After viewing this DVD from Graz Opera, I’m no longer quite so sure. After a bit of the overture the Graz curtain opens … on another curtain! And a straight chair. That’s it, there are no sets. It’s like at an acting class where the teacher says “OK, you’ve got a curtain and a chair, here is the script of Traviata, let’s see what you can do, kids!” Actually, they do quite well, and there is no real harm done to the opera. It is probably not that unusual in these times to be without sets, and this production is certainly no more avant-garde than the “clock” Traviata currently on display at the Metropolitan Opera. One wonders, however, why anyone would consider this one worth preserving on video.

In the absence of sets, stage director Peter Konwitschny keeps the chorus busy, busy, with much stage business. They mug and over-act until it quickly becomes quite tiresome. There are no intermissions; the opera is played straight through in the house and so the score is cut, I suppose, to make it more palatable to a potentially restive audience. Germont’s cabaletta in act II, “No, non udrai rimproveri,” is gone, as is the two-part divertissement with chorus of gypsies, “Noi siamo zingarelle.” There are also snips and tucks in act III. The booklet calls it daring; I call it egregious. La traviata is a short opera, and a masterpiece. Cutting it is like taking a crayon to touch up the Mona Lisa. Much of the music for the two lovers in act I is also sung in a lower key, I would guess to accommodate the tenor. The Violetta, Marlis Petersen, is a world-class soprano, and certainly capable of singing the higher tessitura in the score. She sings well here, in her first outing in the role, and is a magnetic stage personality, constantly drawing all eyes to her. Petersen wears a black wig in act I, a blonde wig in act II, and her own hair in act III for no particular reason I can fathom. She is also given some rather unfortunate stage direction, but her emotions are compelling and her performance riveting. Petersen admits in the bonus feature that it will be difficult taking much from this production to a more traditional one. I, for one, hope to have the opportunity to see her again soon.

Tenor Giuseppe Varano, the Alfredo, wears glasses and looks like a rather nerdy Clark Kent. He acts timorous and bumbles about the stage like a modern-day Buster Keaton, and it is difficult to take him seriously. Varano sings well enough in the lowered keys, but there is no ring in his top notes as with the best of the Italianate tenors in this role. The singing of Germont père , James Rutherford, is a real liability. He is over-parted for the role; his “La Provenza” is almost painful to listen to. Perhaps that is why his cabaletta is cut. His daughter appears inappropriately with him in the act II scene with Violetta, and she looks too young to be engaged to be married, as Germont is claiming. There is another directorial intervention a bit later in the act where Violetta threatens Alfredo with a firearm and then threatens to shoot herself, a bit of cleverness that actually works.

La traviata is certainly one of the most-recorded operas in the repertoire; about 20 DVDs alone are listed at ArkivMusic. A few of my favorites include the Zeffirelli film with Teresa Stratas, the Solti set with a young and touchingly vulnerable Angela Gheorghiu, and the self-same “clock” production mentioned earlier from Vienna with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon.

The Graz Philharmonic Orchestra under the leadership of Tecwyn Evans performs well and the recorded sound is excellent. The chorus members of Graz Opera sing better than they act, and provide solid musical support. The DVD booklet gives us an essay by director Konwitschny in English, French, and German, and the bonus video allows the viewer to watch Konwitschny in action during rehearsal, along with short interviews with him and soprano Petersen. Sound is PCM stereo and Dolby 5.0 surround. Subtitles are available in Italian, English, French, Spanish, and Korean. This production is available in both DVD and Blu-ray, the latter of course in much finer resolution, and the way to go if you have the equipment. While this Graz production of La traviata cannot remotely be considered a first choice, there is much of interest about it. The absence of sets is less noticeable with the many close-ups, and the poignancy of the story remains, despite some of the questionable directorial choices. Finally, there is the star quality performance of Marlis Petersen, which may be reason enough to obtain this disc.

FANFARE: Bill White
Works on This Recording
1. La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer: James Rutherford (Bass), Giuseppe Varano (Tenor), Marlis Petersen (Soprano), Kristina Antonie Fehrs (Voice)
Conductor: Tecwyn Evans
Period: Romantic
Written: 1853 ; Italy
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