LABELS: Virgin Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
WORKS: La Traviata
PERFORMER: Natalie Dessay, Charles Castronovo, Ludovic Tézier; LSO/Louis Langrée; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Mikk Üleoja; dir Jean-François Sivadier
CATALOGUE NO: 730798 9 (NTSC system; PCM stereo; 4:3 picture format)
This is one of the most truthful and moving realisations of Verdi’s La traviata I could ever imagine. Staged for the 2011 Aix-en-Provence Festival, director Jean-François Sivadier employs contemporary dress and meta-theatrical techniques – an actor occasionally directs the singers, and there’s no attempt to disguise the fact that we are on a stage, as opposed to play-acting at real life.
It’s also a spare staging, often with just a bare wall in the background. But such is its intelligence in focusing on the essentials of the characters and the action that one is repeatedly knocked sideways. When Alfredo shockingly throws his gambling winnings in Violetta’s face, he then seizes her in a clasp of smashed-up emotional confusion that highlights that this is a tragedy with two victims, not one. When he first sees Violetta’s broken, dying form (realised to harrowing effect by Natalie Dessay) on entering in Act III, he falls back, and then tries to run away, unable to face her. The production is full of such thought-through moments, exposing the shallowness with which many stagings dull the painful edges.
Dessay is exceptional throughout, not just physically but vocally; she realises Verdi’s notes with insight as well as technical command. Charles Castronovo’s impetuous, intensely vulnerable Alfredo is equally fine. Ludovic Tézier’s Germont and the smaller roles provide a broadening out of the complex social ambience. Conductor Louis Langrée delivers a sensitive musical performance. Altogether an outstanding production of La traviata.