Verdi

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
WORKS: La Traviata
PERFORMER: Venera Gimadieva, Michael Fabiano, Tassis Christoyannis, Emanuele D’Aguanno, Magdalena Molendowska, Eddie Wade, Oliver Dunn, Hanna Hipp, Graeme Broadbent ; Glyndebourne Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Mark Elder; dir. Tom Cairns (Glyndebourne, 2014)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: OA 1171 D; Blu-ray: OA BD7169 D

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If, like me, you feel that you have seen or heard one performance of La traviata too many, this recording from last year’s Glyndebourne Festival is an ideal remedy. Thanks in large part to conductor Mark Elder, whose handling of the score is a revelation, nothing here is routine; from the marvellous tenderness of the opening strings onwards one is overwhelmed by the beauty of the playing and of the work.

The production is slightly more questionable: the opera is set in the recent past, so references to horse-drawn carriages could strike one as a bit odd, as for that matter could mention of fallen women, and much more important, the attitude of Alfredo’s father to Violetta, always the most uncomfortable feature of the drama and the more implausible if dragged into the near-present. Putting those things aside, Tom Cairns’s production is quite excellent, with strong, vivid characterisation of even the minor figures, and a straightforwardness which makes the drama’s impact all the more powerful.

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Venera Gimadieva sings what is famously a difficult role, needing both coloratura agility and tragic grandeur, most impressively. Her acting is vivid too, though she doesn’t have a particularly expressive face; but having the voice of Germont père read the letter, instead of Violetta herself, is a crass and unprecendented folly. Alfredo is ideally sung and acted by Michael Fabiano, youthful, impetuous, intense, and with a ringing voice. And Tassis Christoyannis does his best to make old Germont less than a ghastly old creep: no one can succeed in that, but the voice is beautiful. In an interview Christoyannis says he has realised that Verdi meant Germont’s aria to be banal. I could have told him that. Michael Tanner