This recording of LA TRAVIATA is the third one in my collection (the other two being the Cotrubas/Kleiber and the Callas/Giulini recordings), and am I glad I bought it! As superb as those other two recordings are, I actually LIKE this one the most. It is an all-around excellent performance. Bergonzi's is possibly the finest Alfredo on any complete recording; Merrill is perfectly suited to Germont; Pritchard paces the opera beautifully; the recorded sound is spacious, with lots of atmosphere in the party scenes. But the real surprise of the recording is Sutherland. She brings all of her distinctive gifts to the role of Violetta: a ripe, beautiful voice; supreme coloratura ability; a talent for conveying pathos…
All five titles included in this set feature a DTS 5.1 surround mix, available for the first time for these programs. Carlos Kleiber’s appearances, whether in the concert hall or opera house, were legendary both for their rarity and the sublime quality of the music-making. It is no exaggeration to say that Kleiber was one of the most sought-after and highly-regarded conductors of the late 20th century.
One of the most acclaimed musicians of his era, Toscanini was a conductor of the "old school" - aristocratic, perfectionistic and something of an autocrat on the podium. After a brief flurry of interest in Fascism in the 1910s, he rapidly became disillusioned with the movement and indeed became a personal rival of Mussolini, repeatedly antagonising him through acts of artistic defiance such as refusals to open concerts with the Fascist anthem Giovinezza.
Eventually he fled Italy for the United States, becoming the first conductor of the newly-formed NBC Symphony Orchestra, with whom he pioneered radio broadcasts and recordings that made him a household name in America until his retirement at the age of 87. He gave the premiere performances of several major works, including Barber's Adagio for Strings and the American premiere of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony.
Stage and television director Werner Herzog, one of the most highly acclaimed German film makers of all time, joins forces with the great Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly to effect a masterful rendition of this rarely-performed opera involving spectacular scenes of alternating light and dark, pageantry and intimacy. The production is further complemented by the great Italian baritone Renato Bruson as Giacomo, the American soprano Susan Dunn as Giovanna and the outstanding tenor Vincenzo La Scola as the Dauphin. The magnificent Teatro Comunale di Bologna provides an intimate yet ornate setting for this production of Verdi's seventh opera, the story of the Maid of Orleans.
When Carlo Maria Giulini returned to conducting public performances of opera after an absence of fourteen years, he chose for the occasion one of the enduring comic masterpieces - Verdi's Falstaff. The composer was almost eighty when he broke the six-year silence following the premiere of Otello, and startled the musical world by revealing his complete mastery of comic invention. Renato Bruson, the renowned interpreter of Verdi and one of the leading lyric baritones of the day, sings the title role.
La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi very personal opera, was premiered in 1853 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. The first night was a fiasco, but after a few revisions the opera set out to conquer the world. La Traviata offers no scope for grandiose crowd scenes or historical pomp. In keeping with the intimate nature of the action, Verdi’s music reflects the inner feelings of the protagonists. The heroine, whose emotional state is determined by external circumstances, is in the centre of the story of emotional upheavals. Jürgen Flimm haunting staging stays close to Verdi’s intent. He focuses on the protagonists, showing their shakiness, emotions, despair, love, sacrifice and tragedy rather than concentrating on the abysses of the Parisian demi-monde. Eva Mei and Piotr Beczala are a perfectly matched couple. Her soft and flexible soprano and his lyrical tenor, marked by excellent diction, work very well together, joined by the “golden” voice of outstanding Thomas Hampson.