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DVD Review

Giuseppe Verdi

Naxos DVD 2.110225-26

Luisa Miller

  • Luisa - Darina Takova
  • Rodolfo - Giuseppe Sabbatini
  • Il conte di Walter - Alexander Vinogradov
  • Miller - Damiano Salerno
  • Federica - Ursula Ferri
  • Wurm - Arutjun Kotchinian
  • Laura - Elisabetta Martorana
  • Un Contadino - Luca Favaron
Orchestra & Chorus of the Teatro La Fenice, Venice/Maurizio Benini
Arnaud Benard Bernard, stage director
Naxos 2.110225-26 2DVDs LPCM Stereo Dolby Digital DTS Anamorphic Widescreen
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from ArkivMusic.comFind it at CD Universe
Arthaus Musik DVD 101343

La Traviata

  • Violetta Valéry – Angela Gheorghiu
  • Alfredo Germont – Ramón Vargas
  • Giorgio Germont – Roberto Frontali
  • Flora Bervoix – Natascha Petrinsky
  • Annina – Tiziana Tramonti
  • Gastone – Enrico Cossutta
  • Barone Douphol – Alessandro Paliaga
  • Marchese d'Obigny – Piero Terranova
  • Dottor Grenvil – Luigi Roni
Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet of the Teatro alla Scala/Lorin Maazel
Liliana Cavani, stage director
Recorded live from the Teatro alla Scalla di Milano, 2007
Arthaus Musik DVD 101343 LPCM Stereo Dolby Digital DTS Widescreen
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from ArkivMusic.comFind it at CD Universe
Also available on Blu-ray:
Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe

Let me get technical matters out of the way first. This Traviata, a revival of the 1990 production by Liliana Cavani and set designer Dante Ferretti, is also available in Blu-ray format for those preferring that recent advancement (Arthaus Musik 101344). It is, I'm told, the first disc ever offered in both formats upon release.

Now to the bottom-line matters. Both these Verdi opera performances are very much worth purchase for operaphiles. The Luisa Miller, the lesser of the two in popularity, is not to be overlooked. There haven't been many recordings of this opera over the years, at least not nearly as many as Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Aida and several other Verdi operas. I first became familiar with the work from a 1975 Decca recording featuring Pavarotti, Caballe and Milnes in the leads, with Peter Maag leading the National Philharmonic, an orchestra that only recorded and never concertized. I liked it immediately and wondered why the opera wasn't more popular. Luisa Miller, musically at least, is quite a memorable work. Maybe the libretto's static third act reins it in. In any event, in a good production, the opera works splendidly. And this is a fine production.

Arthaus Musik DVD 101343

This Luisa Miller features Bulgarian soprano Darina Takova in the title role and a cast of singers generally near her excellent level. The production is rather modest, especially alongside the rather colorful Traviata here, which rivals most Franco Zeffirelli productions for sheer spectacle. Nevertheless, the singing and smaller scope of the stage direction are appropriate for the somewhat less ambitious Luisa Miller. In fact, some viewers may find the relatively barren sets and bleaker atmosphere a plus in this still-underrated tragic opera. Darina Takova is clearly the star. From her opening aria, Lo vidi e'l primo palpito, you know you're listening to a great talent. As mentioned above, the rest of the cast is quite fine too, and the conducting of Maurizio Benini and work by the Orchestra & Chorus of the Teatro La Fenice, Venice are superb. The sound is excellent and the camera work intelligently managed.

This La Traviata is also dominated by its female lead, in this case, the celebrated Angela Gheorghiu. And she has Mexican tenor Ramon Vargas as Alfredo, and, of course, Lorin Maazel in the pit leading the orchestra. Talk about star power in an opera production! And speaking about the production, it is just the opposite of the Luisa Miller effort: it is colorful, splashy, with a fabulous Brindisi (Libiamo ne' lieti calici), splendid costumes, and a progressive sense you're moving from joy and celebration to passion and tragedy.

The first three big numbers, Violetta's Ah, fors' è lui…Sempre libera and Addio del passato, and the Brindisi are so wonderfully sung and dramatically convincing, you know you're witnessing a spectacular event. And nothing that follows lets you down. The sound and camera work here too, are excellent. Again, both these Verdi recordings are special.

Copyright © 2008 by Robert Cummings

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