Marina Rebeka, Charles Castronovo, George Petean, Elizabeth Sergeeva, Gideon Poppe, Isaac Galán, Rihards Močanovskis, Krišjānis Norvelis; State Choir Latvia; Latvian Festival Orchestra/Michael Balke
Prima PRIMA003 121:18 mins (2 discs)
Ten years ago, a list of recordings of La Traviata reached a total of 253 – an indication of how competitive this particular field is.
Marina Rebeka’s Violetta is vocally confident and expertly articulated, offering a clear dramatic understanding of the role. She’s at her most effective in the big scene with Germont in Act II, but while there’s plenty of personality, there’s also a distinct edge to the tone at times: more dynamic variety and nuance would give her interpretation additional quality.
Charles Castronovo’s Alfredo is a buoyant, nicely scaled account that again could do with greater sense of character and finesse; he comes over as a likable young man – but rather ordinary. George Petean’s Germont is notable for its vocal largesse on a grand scale; yet again, more subtlety is required to humanise the role, which becomes something of a standard ‘big sing’. All the secondary roles are decently done.
This is the first recording of an orchestra founded in 2015 which ‘combines a select group of musicians from various Latvian symphony and chamber orchestras’; they are more than capable, as is their conductor. The chorus – not, after all, an operatic ensemble – is dull in tone. The sound is a little too bright, the chorus placed too far back in the overall picture, the offstage band too far forward. It’s a perfectly adequate performance but, given that so many others are available, hardly a special one.