Verdi - La Traviata / Gheorghiu, Lopardo, Nucci, Covent Garden, Solti
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Best Modern Version You cannot go wrong with conducting legend Sir Georg Solti's 1994 version, one of his last recordings before he died three years later. This recording, in outstanding sound and also available as a DVD, debuts the amazing Romanian super-star Angela Gheorghiu as Violetta. She'll have you convinced she's singing on blow....more info
Fun, energetic, and well orchestrated. A live recording from 1993 documents Gheorghiu's debut at Covent Garden. And, a wonderful debut it is. Gheorghiu is quite remarkable, although not the greatest interpretor of the role. She brings some fresh ideas and wonderful coloring to the vocal line. Her vocalising sometimes gets a little embellished but stays true to character. Her voice is small but stupendous. Now, her timbre has never been my cup of tea. A little grating to my ears. The supporting cast really shines with Nucci bringing a wonderful gentility to Giorgio Germont. He understands being a father. Lopardo is simply wonderful in the second act intro. Solti as always guides the pit with a wonderful rhythm and idea for logical flow of the music. He really has an idea for Traviata as a whole. Something not often found nowadays. While this would not be my first Traviata it is certainly worth a look.
P.S. - To those suggesting she matches Callas or even Sutherland, think again. She needs time to really interpret the role. Also, the fullness of the voice just isn't there. She is a lyric spinto with a healthy upper extension. Not a dramatic soprano with the range of Callas or pure tonal beauty of Sutherland....more info
Golden Age of Singing Over? Emphatically not!!!
In THOSE days, there were lots and lots of articles saying THEN that there were no more singers THEN. But a look back at history shows that it is not true. They had Sutherland, Nilsson, Rysanek, Christa Ludwig, James King, Jon Vickers, Beverly Sills, Walter Berry, Astrid Varnay, Martha Modl, Wolfgang Windgassen, Leontyne Price, Kurt Moll, Marti Talvela .... and many others whom they DID NOT appreciate. But looking back, WE say that THAT was the GOLDEN age of singing and that now there are no singers left. HOGWASH!!!!
We do have glorious singers today!! Look at the following list:
1. Renee Fleming - her glorious and gorgeous voice. Few sopranos can match the beauty of her voice and tone. Her voice is equal in beauty and perhaps even surpassing that of Leontyne Price and Te Kanawa.
2. Karita Mittila - her transformation into a dramatic soprano. Look at her stunning success in Salome in Paris this Autumn. The experts are going back into the history books and hailing her as the best Salome since Ljuba Welitsch, Maria Ceborati and Leonie Rysanek. Even Rysanek never manage to sound like a teenager even though her voice was phenomenal. Mattila looks and sounds young!! And her voice is powerful enough (and beautiful) for the final scene.
3. Jane Eaglen - Her huge powerful dramatic soprano is perfect for Isolde and Brunnhilde. Her voice is beginning to show some signs of unsteadiness though.
4. Benn Heppner - Whom Jon Vickers praised as having a better voice than himself.
5. Rene Pape - Whom Birgit Nilsson gave her first prize to.
6. Frank Loporado - In this recording. His voice is beautiful and witness his stunning Ferrando in Solti's Cosi Fan Tutte. I think that criticisms about his singing is nonsense. He has a most beautiful tenor voice.
7. Cheryl Studer - Although she encountered vocal problems in the late 1990s, she was phenomenal before that.
8. Angela Gheorghiu here - Solti was so excited he said she could do ANYTHING!! And here she is stunning in vocal acting with her beautiful voice!!!
Yes, this Traviata shows that the golden age of singing is not over. Solti's conducting is marvellous and Gheorghiu is stunning even if she goes off pitch sometimes - perfect ok in a 'live' performance. Afterall, performers are human - so what if they make one or two tiny mistakes as long as the performance as a whole is fabulous. 10 years from now, people will look back to NOW and say that oh, THIS was a golden age of singing but they did not record Fleming, Gheorghiu, Mattila .... in their complete roles. What an irony!!...more info
First Choice - Magnificent Recording!! I have a similar experience as the reviewer below. La Traviata is one of Verdi's most famous and successful opera. But curiously, I have never been able to really appreciate Traviata on record (I have yet to see it 'live' at the opera house). Even after listening to the opera many times, I still found it mystical that La Traviata should be so famous. I prefer Verdi's Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, Aida, Don Carlos ....
As many reviewers have noted (not only here but elsewhere), Sutherland is vocally spectacular. What a voice she had!!! I own many of her recordings and am always flabbergasted by her coloratura skills and her trills and spectacular high notes and breath control. But ohhhhhh ... in the slower passages especially, it is sometimes so painful - she has a beautiful voice but she moons a lot and there's no or little drama. What a pity she never pushed herself but I suppose that explains her vocal longevity. Callas is the other famous Violetta. Yes, Callas is very famous. It's Callas this and Callas that. Callas is best at this and best at that - Tosca, Turandot, Norma, Violetta. But oh... her best recordings are in mono!! Then of course, there is Cotrubas in Kleiber's recording in excellent stereo. So what's wrong with that one? I don't really know. I think it may have to do with the fact that it's too hard driven - Kleiber drives the party music very hard and he's rather mechanical and rigid. And the recording sounds rather harsh. Perhaps it is the conducting, perhaps it is the sounds engineers and the recording. Whatever the reason (which I can't quite pinpoint), that recording also never clicked for some reason even though I tried hearing it over and over again many times.
So, like the reviewer below, I never really enjoyed this opera...until I heard Solti's recording!! What makes Solti's special? I think it is a confluence of many factors. First of all, the Decca digital sound is absolutely gorgeous and beautifully balanced. Voices and orchestra are all clear - not too close, not too far. The sound itself ravishes the senses. But sound alone is insufficient. Solti's conducting is also fantastic, helped by the superb playing of the orchestra. The orchestra is ravishing and tender where needed - listen to the opening of Act 1 and Act 3. Where needed, the orchestra is light, fast and deft - listen to the party music - it is light, fun and skips along with a lot of joy. At the climaxes, there is that "BANG!" that is superbly judged - not too bombastic, not too reticent. Then of course, there is Gheorghiu herself. her voice is not as beautiful as some people make it out to be. It DEFINITELY IS beautiful. But not in the class of say, Renee Fleming or even Karita Mattila both of whom I think have more beautiful voices than Gheorghiu in this Traviata. Nevertheless, Gheorghiu's voice IS VERY BEAUTIFUL and makes you want to listen to her again and again. Her coloratura is not perfect either. Cotrubas has better coloratura. But whatever, Gheorghiu is still superb and her vocal acting is so good that you just overlook her faults. Frank Lopardo is the other magnificent singer. I actually prefer Lopardo to Domingo in Kleiber's recording. Maybe it has to do with the recording rather than the singer. But I actually find Lopardo's singing more magnetic - more passionate and more memorable. Nucci is excellent as Germont. Not voiceless as some mean guy has said. Added to this is the fact that this is a live recording with all the 'live' atmosphere that is so hard to define. The record is, how should I say, "living"?
The end result is that the sum adds up to much more than its parts. Golden age of singing over? No!!!! Perhaps there is a lack of successor to Nilsson and Sutherland. But otherwise, there are still lots of outstanding opera singers around. Only narrow minded people who are not willing to accept the varying interpretations of singers would live in a world in which the golden age of singing is over. For people like me, there are still lots of singers around who can rival opera singers of yesteryears.
Conclusion: My personal judgement is that this is the best La Traviata around on the market and I strongly recommend it to anyone as a first choice or as a sole representation of the work in your collection....more info
ok, but nothing special Overrated, way overrated. Gheorghiu's singing is ok, and the vocal acting is a little above par. However, this was not as great as others say, when I heard for myself. I've heard lots of other violetta's that are just as good, or even better, so what's the deal with this one?...more info
LAAAAAAAAAAAAAA TRAVIATA!!! Laaaaaaaaaaa Traviata!! Verdi's glorious masterpiece given a glorious realization here. Gheorghiu is nothing short of stunning. For once, I agree with the Gramophone Magazine. Gheorghiu is the most complete and moving Violetta since Cotrubas....more info
Stunning!! I absolutely disagree with detractors. This Traviata is stunning!! I owned the Kleiber for a long time. But listening to this, I realized what the Kleiber lacks - warmth. Carlos Kleiber is no doubt exciting but at places, for instance the waltzes in Act 1, he moves like a mechanical clock (Toscanini-like) - yes, it's fast and exciting but it doesn't really 'dance' or 'bounce'. Solti, on the other hand, 'bounces' and 'dances' with the music. Gheorghiu is fabulous. She doesn't take the high E flat at the end of Act 1. But Verdi never wrote the high E flat. Listening to the way she hit the high D flats, she could have taken the high E flat but I guess Solti or whoever wanted to stay faithful to the score. No worries, we have no high E flat but we have gorgeous high D flats and high C's from Gheorghiu!! Lopardo is no Domingo or Pavarotti but he's outstanding. Overall, this is deserving of the Rosette that Penguin Guide gives it!!! I bought this set after owning the Kleiber for a long time because I found that this set offered me something special that Kleiber did not....more info
A wonderful theatrical interpretation What a joy it was to hear this recording of La Traviata! In my opinion Gheorgiou tops Sutherland and, dare I say, Callas, in this recording. Her coloratura is perfect, not too overdone. The whole performance is very theatrical and well acted, which is rare in other stiff recordings I've heard. Solti brings the music alive, just listening to the overture burns one with anticipation. I hate to admit it, but Violetta's aria in the IV act even brought tears to my eyes.
This opera is a live recording, and you'll want to cheer and clap along with the audience at the end. Truly a wonderful experience! Enjoy!...more info
This is one of the best! The singing is top rate! Not since listening to my 1958 Callas recording have I heard a soprano in this role inject so much acting into her singing! Solti's performance is beyond words, and it is so exciting to hear the dynamics between Gheorghiu's Violetta and Solti's conducting. This is one of my most cherished opera recordings!...more info
This Traviata triumphs.... I must admit that it took me a while to appreciate Verdi's La Traviata. My first exposure to this opera was the famous Zeffirelli film with Stratas and Domingo. Although the acting in the film is fantastic, vocally Stratas is disappointing. So I tried listening to a recording...Sutherland's first set. Vocally, she is spectacular, but dramatically miserable...I was bored silly and never got through it! Then I tried Callas's recordings, which are brilliant with respect to her vocal acting, but the recorded sound is AWFULL!
So, I never really enjoyed this opera...until I heard Gheorghiu's Violetta...BRAVA!
Her performance is a true example of vocal acting! Technically, she is brilliant...her colortura is flawless. However, she is more than a beautiful voice...she brings Violetta to life...her performance has great emotional depth and a passionate intensity.
Beware: this is a live recording and stage noises can be heard (doors open/close, foot steps, audience applause etc.), but they do not hinder the performance in my opinion. If you want a studio recording Sutherland's second set is good, however be prepared to doze off...like I did.
The recorded sound is vivid, voices are nicely balanced and most importantly this an engaging reading. At the very least, you will find your eyes a little moist and your a heart a little saddened for the fallen woman who sacrifices her happiness as a testament of her love......more info
Wonderful Recording! Traviata is one of those operas which everyone who has a shred of an operatic voice loves to record, and sometimes those who don't have any idea of what the roles in this opera are all about sing it anyways. The carrying power of this opera is the heroine, Violetta, and one only has to look at her transformation, musically and dramatically, to see why a soprano makes or breaks her career with this role. Many people would overlook the opera mainly because too many mediocre singers have performed it, but it was THE work that represented the turning point in Verdi's musical career. The vocal and orchestral writing are perhaps one of the perfect combinations of his late romanticism and early bel canto influences that characterized works like Attila and Aroldo.
Anyways, back to the recording. Much ink has been spilled about Angela Gheorghiu and about how she sounds like Callas and this and that singer. Well, let me tell you...she isn't Callas! Nor was Joan Sutherland, or Montserrat Caballe, or Victoria de los Angeles. Joan was Joan, Montsie was Montsie, and Victoria is Victoria. I think people should get over the fact that if only one interpretation of the role were to be accepted, then perhaps we should bury the score in the ground, get a really nice recording of Maria Callas in the role, clean out the audience interference (all her Traviatas were live), and play it in the opera house while second-rate actors lip-synch it. Or, we can listen to new singers who really know how to interpret their roles, despite the fact that it isn't Maria, and praise them for the wonderful insights they give to the role. I think Angela Gheorghiu is a wonderful Violetta. She may not be a coloratura soprano, but she has a dark grain in her voice that makes her Violetta all the more effective in the rest of the opera. Her Act I, by the way, is magnificent, with all the requisite coloratura in place minus the interpolated E-flat...which isn't in the score, FYI. Her vocal shadings are perfect for the role, her second act emotionally correct and giving, her third act one of the most heartbreaking accounts since Callas. This is her first run of Violettas, I believe, and while her knowledge of the character is already outstanding, I have to say that hearing her in the Met broadcast a few months ago found me realizing that she had developed her insights into the role. She is perhaps the definitive Violetta of the day.
The rest of the cast is good, but not as great as one would have liked for Gheorghiu's partnerships. Frank Lopardo is an ardent Alredo, but he lacks some panache to his voice which gives him the needed ping in certain parts of the opera. Leo Nucci is a very charismatic Germont, but again, he lacks some voice. He is still better than many of the singers out there who TRY to be Verdi baritones.
Solti is one of the best conductors ever to have conducted the score. In his 80's, he remarkably produced one of the most heartfelt and transparent readings I've heard, and all the bombastic drive that he is associated with is absent from this recording.
A definitive Traviata? Perhaps if one were to consider its merits and weigh it with something as legendary as the Giulini Traviata, well...yes, I think this is quite definitive for our day and age. ...more info
One more thing It is true though that there's no Birgit Nilsson today. Jane Eaglen comes closest but she needs to take better care of her voice!!!...more info
Sumptuous! No Verdi opera is so dependent on the dramatic conviction of its soprano. Supporting roles are extremely subject to what this lead had for lunch (as the premier performance of this opera proved). Verdi's Violetta demands a dramatic wrapper of strength about a frail woman with a fatal repertory illness (nice touch). Still, the composer was riding high after his successes with Rigoletto and Trovatore. He had the confidence and the libretto to make it work. Even if the opera had to be reworked, Verdi never lost confidence and finally found the right cast/ambiance to pull it all off.
Little wonder, that Sir George insisted that EMI tape this live performance. This performance is a stunner! If Maria Callas were alive today she would murdered Gheorghiu (Verdi style, of course) for stealing a spotlight previously focus only on her achievement in this role. Never have I been so impressed by the unseen dramatics of a recording (of course, being live helped). The audience is first rate too, not one sneeze or cough is heard throughout (they only slipped a couple of times with applause...due cause).
Frank Lopardo is a fine Alfredo and Leo Nucci above average as the not-good-enough-for-my-brat Germont. Nucci is pompous yet convincingly remorseful when it counts (pick up a box if tissues before putting this on). Velvety yet intense handling, Solti, a great conductor, outdoes himself with a Traviata superior to any this listener has heard. Thank you Georg, a "must own"!...more info
The best La Traviata!!!!!!!! EVER.......... It is very hard indeed to add something to all this great reviews. Before I've seen Gheorghiu in this particular opera it was Callas the Diva to which I compared any performance. I found Callas Violeta very emotional and touching, not to mention the unique voice.
I liked Opera until I heard Solti's La Traviata. Then I felt in love with.....
The great conducting of Solti combined with Gheorghiu's interpretation of Violeta made me see so many colors in the pallet that Opera generally offers. Actually this two (Solti and Gheorghiu) stunning in this performance, made me understand and love Opera.
I am not an expert but it is hard not to see the warmth that Gherghiu is giving to Violeta's role, from a thrilling voice (even with that few mistakes) to a great dramatic presence on the stage (so touchy)!
You didn't understand Opera? See this one and you will.
Are you still wondering what the Opera it's all about? See this one and you will find the answer.
To the experts: You think you've heard it all? Listen to this one and you'll think again......more info
Superb conducting It seems fashionable for people to bash up Solti's conducting. To say that the conducting here is slow is ridiculous!! Solti moves along at a fine pace - not too fast and not too slow. There is a lot of spring in the orchestra that makes listening a pleasure even in the slow sections which are traditionally more "boring". And Gheorghiu sings beautifully - she does have a beautiful voice although the vibrato is rather prominent. But like Jessye Norman (who also has a prominent vibrato), Gheorghiu has a beautiful voice and makes good use of it. Indeed, Gheorghiu has very good vocal acting skills and actual on-stage acting skills. Lopardo is excellent - I don't see a need to bash him either, and so is Leo Nucci. Both of them have very beautiful voices which are rare these days. This set is worthy to stand along legendary sets like the Kleiber set with Domingo and Cortubas. Gheorghiu is definitely in the Corturbas class....more info
Magnetized!! From the opening of the overture, I was completely magnetized from start to finish!! This is rare among opera recordings. I normally fall asleep during one or two segments of every opera. This is one of those superb productions that magnetize you from start to finish. Solti's conducting is superb - tha orchestra plays superbly - one reason for being captivated. The other reason is GHEORGHIU!! She has a most mesmerizing voice!! It is beautiful, not in the Leontyne Price, Renee Fleming, Tebaldi typ of beauty. I normally hate vibratos. But in this case, Gheorghiu's vibrato only adds to her vocal acting and vocal beauty!! I bought this recording out of curiosity - because everyone kept raving about it. Now I've fallen in love with Gheorghiu and I've bought a bunch of her CDs in addition to this CD ... ooops.......more info
Gheorghiu is great, but.... I hate to burst the bubbles of the "automatic five star" brigade, but you really cannot call this set the best "Traviata" available if you have some knowledge of what is actually out there. I do agree that Gheorghiu's Violetta is enchantingly vocalised and acted, and if she were worthily partnered I would place this recording near the top of the tree, but "La Traviata" has proved a notoriously challenging opera to pull off in the recording studio and a perfect realisation yet remains to be done...so don't hold your breath, given the current state of the recording industry. According to your taste - and I like her very much - perhaps only Fleming could give us another great Violetta on record; meanwhile the likes of Caballe, Callas and, in particular, Moffo and Freni (see my reviews) reign supreme alongside Gheorghiu, who sings divinely but is vocally not as captivating an actress as Callas - nobody is. Solti conducts sensitively without putting any particular marks of individuality on the score.
The problems here are the tight, throaty tenor of Lopardo and the dull, bland Germont of that perennial second-rate baritone Leo Nucci (who had all too short a period of some bloom in the voice back in the 80's and always evinced some nasty vocal faults). As much as I enjoyed Gheorghiu, I found that this set could not hold my attention as much as it should have and ultimately I gave my copy away to return to the other, earlier recordings....more info
Not since Callas There are two real reasons that make this recording of Traviata a 'must'. The first is Gheorghiu. She is simply the most emotional and vocally thrilling Violetta to appear since Callas. The coloratura in the first act is tossed of with absolute ease and imbued with a charisma that makes the heart beat skip. She also brings to the role an emotional desperation and dramatic depth that few artists associated with this role could even dream of. Vocally, it is rare these days to hear a soprano with such coloratura retain the vocal weight and color of Gheorghiu. Solti is also in sparkling form, in complete command of the Covent Garden orchestra, he fills the score with a energetic pace while sacrificing nothing in color or drama. Although recorded live, the sound is exceptionally good - the best I have heard from Covent Garden. For me the best Traviata since Callas and considering the poor sound quality of her recordings, this is surely the dominant Traviata available. A great achievement....more info
A Great La Traviata This La Traviata is destined to become a "Great Recordings of the Century" in time to come. It is superbly conducted and "alive" - not surprisingly since this was recorded "live" at Convent Garden in 1994. It is incredible how Decca's engineer can record "live" opera at Convent Garden to such stunning effect. I mean the sound is absolutely fabulous - definitely among Decca's best digital sound quality. Decca's engineers truly live up to their legendary reputation. The greatest star of this La Traviata is without doubt Georg Solti - the infectious rhythms in Traviata comes through thrillingly in this recording and Solti's conducting is deft and full of tenderness with ample "punch" where required. You would be surprised that this was the conductor who 40 years ago conducted the legendary Decca Ring cycle. Angela Gheorghiu is the other star. She produces glorious and beautiful tone for Violetta. There is emotion in her singing and she doesn't overdo things. She is destined to become a great Verdi singer. Frank Lopardo also sings Alfredo's music wonderfully. His lyrical tenor voice is rich and beautiful with enough power where required. As he said so himself, even though he could "push" his voice and take on heavier roles, he has chosen to stick to lighter roles. I think that this policy has served him well in preserving his voice, which is rich, lyrical and beautiful. Nucci as Germont sings beautifully too. I love his voice and I feel that some reviewers have been too mean to him.
All in all, this is a glorious achievement from the then 82 years old Solti, conducting La Traviata for the first time in his life. But he conducts as if he's conducted La traviata all his life!!! I think this Traviata stands up to the best Traviatas in the market. Can it stand its own against Carlos Kleiber's famous set? Yes!! Carlos Kleiber is in fact too violent at times and rather mechanical in his approach. Does it stand up to Sutherland's Violetta? You bet!! Of course, Gheorghiu cannot match Sutherlands coloratura but I think Gheorghiu is better at characterization and definitely sings with more personality in it. Solti fans need not hesitate. Non-Solti fans - well, you needn't hesitate either....more info
the stuff of legends well - what can you say - after having listened to practically every traviata in the market (bar Caballe's and moffo's I think) and really knowing every Shtick there is too know about this opera, I was once again thrilled to encounter such a major new talent in agela gheorghiu - this is really the stuff of legends. Having first witnessed the production on video, I was immediately bowled over by Gheorghiu's presence - which is palbable even before she openbs her mouth. Once she does that' one immediately understands that this is a singer ona par with the greatest history can offer. This recording has been present in my life for the past 3 years and I have been totally enhanced by it. Don't miss it!...more info