Verdi: La traviata

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
WORKS: La traviata
PERFORMER: Anna Netrebko, Roland Villazon, Thomas Hampson, Helene Schneiderman, Diane Pilcher, Salvatore Cordella; Mozarteum Orchester; Vienna State Opera Choir and Philharmonic/Carlo Rizzi; dir. Willy Decker
CATALOGUE NO: 073 4196
Much hyped and enormously successful as an audio recording (reviewed in December), Decker’s 2005 Salzburg Festival production starring Netrebko and Villazón – the latest so-called ‘dream couple’ – reaches DVD. They are undeniably well matched. Both young and both good looking, they are equally committed to Decker’s physically demanding modern-dress staging, sparse as it looks on the vast stage of the Festspielhaus, with its handful of sofas, and the large clock ticking away the remaining moments of Violetta’s existence.

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It’s a generally intelligent examination of her plight and their relationship, with a few oddities thrown in. Violetta is haunted by the figure of the Doctor warning her that time is short – a memento mori come to life. Alfredo sings his opening Act II solo to her, nonsensically, during some light-hearted sex play. But most of Decker’s ideas – such as having the prurient chorus visually all-male, though including female singers – make a point. Certainly this underlines the sex-object status that Parisian society has given Violetta, and which Alfredo temporarily rescues her from.

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Where both the protagonists fall down is in the roughness and occasional carelessness of their singing, full-on and full-out as it always is. The largely stylistically assured conductor, Carlo Rizzi, should have stuck up for Verdi here. But this is an undeniably powerful presentation of the old favourite – a Traviata for our times. George Hall