This is the first post of a series “Recording of the Week”. Be aware that my “week” has between one and 365 days. Also the year that the week it belongs to is any since 1930. Now that we have the details out of the way, let’s start with Verdi’s La Traviata.
Pierre Monteux conducted Rosanna Carteri, Cesare Valletti, and Leonard Warren in this 1956 recording of Verdi’s intimate masterpiece. I first bought this album when it was new. The vinyl discs came with a hardcover copy of Dumas’ novel on which his play and in turn Verdi’s opera was based. It’s probably still around in a dusty box.
Traviata succeeds or not depending on its soprano. Carteri was beautiful of both voice and mien as well as being an intensely effective actress. She was only 25 years old when this recording was made. She voluntarily retired to family life in her mid thirties. She was a wonderful artist. Valletti’s voice was a little small for Alfredo, though on disc it’s large enough; his singing as always was suave and elegant. Warren, of course was the greatest Verdi baritone of his time. He brings about three times what you usually get from the baritone who sings Germont.
As far as I know this is the only Italian opera Monteux ever recorded. At the Met I only heard him in French opera. Like everything the great maestro touched his reading of the score is beautifully done. The drama and pathos of the piece are fully realized.
The only trouble with this recording is that it’s very hard to find. It easily stands up to or surpasses all of its competition. So if you come across it for a reasonable price, I advise you get it.