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Verdi – La Traviata

Vienna State Opera Chorus, Mozarteum Orchestra & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Cond Carlo Rizzi



Violetta – Anna Netrebko

Alfredo – Rolando Villazon

Germont – Thomas Hampson

Gastone – Salvatore Cordella

Annina – Diane Pilcher

Flora – Helene Schneiderman


Deutsche Grammophon 00289 477 5936 [Recorded live at the 2005 Salzburg Festival – 2 CDs – 126 mins]


Billed as the opera event of 2005 with tickets exchanging hands for prices many times their box office value, Salzburg had a palpable hit with La Traviata, and something of the buzz that this sort of success engenders is transmitted into the live recording.


The hero of the event is surely conductor Carlo Rizzi – revelling in Verdi's glorious music, and demonstrating his complete mastery of the sometimes elusive subtleties and deep emotional undercurrents in this score, which underpin the contributions of the principals. Of course, the Vienna Philharmonic is a superb orchestra and he has the added luxury of the Mozarteum Orchestra on stage and the full forces of the Vienna State Opera Chorus at his disposal. (The “sound window” is very wide, and gives a real sense of presence in the two big party scenes.)


There is also the little matter of an all star cast ….. three singers with much admired voices and the looks to match their roles. The booklet is liberally illustrated and gives a real flavour of Willy Decker's modish production,


Anna Netrebko's career has risen astronomically through the Mariinsky company to an international platform. Her voice is crystal clear, rising effortlessly to the highest notes without any trace of harshness creeping in. She makes a young and appealing Violetta, perfect in the context of this production, but I look forward to hearing her interpretation grow and take on a further layer of worldly-wise maturity.


Rolando Villazon appears all set to claim his place amongst the great tenors of his generation. His Alfredo is charm personified, yet contains a deeper reading and full understanding of the emotions that surround him. This is a singer to be taken seriously, not just the latest object of media hype.


Germont pere seems a role that could have been tailor made for Thomas Hampson. In his opening scene his voice is stern and harsh, but gradually, and with great finesse, he softens it as first sympathy and then regret set in. It's a portrayal of real authority, perfectly judged to the finest detail.


Dire warnings have been heard recently predicting the end of studio recordings of opera, but if these are to be replaced by live recordings of this quality, bringing with them the freshness and excitement of the theatre, my grief will be tempered by anticipation of delights to come.



Serena Fenwick