WORKS: La traviata
PERFORMER: Edita Gruberova, Neil Shicoff, Giorgio Zancanaro; LSO/Carlo Rizzi
CATALOGUE NO: 9031 76348-2 DDD
Close upon the heels of DG’s Traviata with Metropolitan Opera forces under James Levine (reviewed last month) comes Teldec’s almost equally fine version under Carlo Rizzi. The LSO and the Ambrosian Singers do not have the work in their blood, or even in their repertory, in the way that the Met chorus and orchestra do, but they perform creditably, and Rizzi’s tempi, brisk but never hectic, are comfortable for the singers. Edita Gruberova, an affecting and vocally stunning Violetta on the stage, does not project the unhappy heroine’s plight so strongly on disc, but she generally rises to the work’s dramatic demands.
Neil Shicoff’s ardent Alfredo, a little heavier than is ideal, is nevertheless more than acceptable, and Giorgio Zancanaro’s Germont père is strongly characterised and stylishly sung. But with more than a dozen versions of this opera now available, is this the one to choose? If I had to restrict myself to one, I’d take Carlos Kleiber’s on DG, with Cotrubas and Domingo. But I wouldn’t want to be without Bergonzi’s Alfredo on EMI, conducted by Muti, with Caballé as Violetta. For me, Callas’s flawed vocalism rules her out, but her 1958 live performance from Lisbon has the elegant Alfredo Kraus as her lover. Charles Osborne