WORKS: La traviata
PERFORMER: Cheryl Studer, Luciano Pavarotti, Juan PonsThe Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus/James Levine
CATALOGUE NO: 435 797-2 DDD
Some ‘complete’ recordings of La traviata turn out to be less complete than others. But this one includes every note that Verdi wrote, as well as, in the case of Pavarotti’s Act II cabaletta, a top C that he didn’t. It is splendidly sung by all three principal singers and a supporting cast of Met regulars, giving the feeling less of a studio recording than of a performance in the theatre.
Cheryl Studer’s warmth and roundness of tone are well to the fore in the later acts of the opera, and she also has the flexibility for Act I’s ‘Sempre libera’. She makes a most vulnerable and appealing Violetta, especially affecting in the second-act finale. Pavarotti may no longer be a convincing Alfredo on stage, but here he is at his most impressive, singing with ardent tone, the purest Italian diction of any tenor since Bergonzi, and a fine appreciation of middle-period Verdi style.
Juan Pons is an eloquent and sympathetic Germont Père, whose firm characterization is particularly effective in his Act II confrontation with Studer’s Violetta. Here, and throughout the opera, the contribution of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under James Levine is first-rate. The chorus, too, whose function is integral to La traviata, perform with the confidence and conviction of authentic opera choristers. This is a highly acceptable recording of one of Verdi’s best-loved operas. Charles Osborne