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.
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.
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