Although she takes a little while to hit her vocal stride, Renée Fleming is in fine form in this excellent production of Verdi's popular masterpiece. From the second scene of the opening act (É strano! É strano!), she delivers a committed, interpretively nuanced portrayal of the difficult role of Violetta. Her voice sounds perhaps a tad darker compared to its timbre of ten or fifteen years ago, but for the most part it hasn't changed. Fleming was fifty at the time of this performance and her voice is therefore in remarkably fine condition. Her dramatic skills are excellent as usual. But of course, the road to success in this opera not only requires exceptional singing from Violetta but strong work from Alfredo and Germont. Joseph Calleja turns in a fine effort as Alfredo: in the duets in the first scene he comes on with plenty of energy, actually seeming more spirited than Fleming. Thomas Hampson is imposing as Germont, and his duets with Fleming in the second scene of Act II were splendid. Here Fleming is really into the role as well and the drama runs high. The rest of the cast is also fine, but conductor Antonio Pappano must be given as much credit for the success of this production as anyone. Since the 2002-03 season he has been music director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Thus, he knows the orchestra, chorus and production personnel quite well. His tempos here are well judged, and he draws finely nuanced playing from the orchestra.
This performance is a revival of the Richard Eyre production first given at Covent Garden in 1994. It's a fairly traditional one, with sumptuous sets and costumes and fine lighting. The camera work throughout is excellent as is the sound reproduction. There really isn't a flaw in this production – even the dancing in the final scene of Act II is well done and the various choruses throughout the opera are sung with spirit and precision. One additional plus here: there is a bonus track that features Pappano interviewing Renée Fleming.
I've reviewed two other video recordings of La Traviata here in the last several years – the Arthaus Musik La Scala production (Arthaus Musik 101343 - 2007) with Angela Gheorghiu as Violetta and Lorin Maazel conducting, and the TDK Teatro La Fenice production (TDK DVWW-OPLTLF - 2004) with Patrizia Cioffi and again Maazel conducting. The TDK was a fine account of the original version of the opera and is therefore a most desirable acquisition for Verdi mavens. The Arthaus Musik offering is excellent and certainly fully competitive with almost any version. Because Fleming has perhaps a dash more charisma both vocally and dramatically than most sopranos who sing Violetta, and because of Pappano's incisive conducting, I would probably select this new Opus Arte Blu-ray version if I had to choose just one La Traviata on video. Note: this recording is also available in standard DVD format.
Copyright © 2011, Robert Cummings