Does the world need another recording of La Traviata? Of course not. But if your goal is present all of Verdi’s opera on DVD you must give birth to another version of Verdi’s poor sinner. Fortunately, The Teatro Regio di Parma’s production of Traviata is first rate.
No other Verdi opera is so dependent on one character as is this one. The Bulgarian soprano Svetla Vassileva is beautiful in both voice and mien. She fully realizes the suffering and self sacrifice that make Violetta one of opera’s most affecting characters. Ms Vassileva has sung at virtually every one of the world’s major opera houses save the Met. Chicago, San Francisco, London, Milan, and Vienna have all seen and heard her. Why she’s not made it to New York is another of opera’s many imponderables.
Vassileva’s impersonation is marred only by her obviously robust good health. She is a little coarse at the opera’s start, but consider her profession. Her transformation from paid to true love is entirely believable. Her surrender to self sacrifice in the opera’s key scene with the elder Germont is poignant. Her acting and singing are blended into an artistic and emotional whole. At the time of this performance (2007) she was a good Traviata as could be found anywhere. Verdi lovers are lucky it was preserved. Here is Addio, del passato from the opera’s final act.
Tenor Massimo Giordano has a pleasant lyric tenor. He has sung Alfredo at the Met. His acting consists of lurching across the stage and dropping his outer garments on the floor when he comes onstage. He did this ‘who needs a coat hanger’ routine three times. In both scenes of act 2 and in act 3. Basically, he got the job done – being a competent Alfredo.
The same was true of Bulgarian baritone Vladimir Stoyanov; two of the three principals being Bulgarian at the shrine of Verdi seems noteworthy. Stoyanov’s voice is sizable and he uses it with control. Its sound is not bright or dark. He sang ‘Di Provenza’ with considerable style except for the high note at its end where his voice went dry and strained. Since the TV crew had three shots at the opera from which to assemble its DVD version I assume that he had trouble with the note in all three performances. Nevertheless, his was a nuanced and convincing portrayal of the mid-nineteenth Provençal whose conventional approach to life turns the gears of the plot.
The comprimario roles were all dispatched with professional ease. Yuri Temirkanov conducted with sensitivity, but failed the essential test of a Verdi conductor – the chords. Every Verdi opera has a moment of great emotional intensity which Verdi emphasizes with a series of chords that sound like nobody else’s. A series of chords accompanies Violetta’s realization that she is about to die ‘Prendi, queste l’imagine’. They should shake the listener to the core and sound like the portents of doom they are. Temirkanov reading of them was lifeless, dull, inapposite, and of course disappointing. I must admit that most conductors flub this test.
Karl-Ernst Herrmann and Ursel Hermann’s production was appropriate both for time and place. Except for the inevitable bit of European 21st century vulgarity, it was very effective. Violetta spent a little too much time atop a large table in act 1 and there was a bit of partial nudity in the party scene in act 2. This uncovering was doubtless required by the censors. Interestingly, the first scene in act 2 was set in winter rather than the conventional summer scene. Given the opera’s chronology and the advanced state of Violetta’s TB (she dies in February) the hibernal setting made sense.
Tiziano Mancini’s TV directing was unobtrusive and effective. The DVD is highly recommended because of the excellence of it protagonist.
Violetta Valéry – Svetla Vassileva
Flora Bervoix – Daniela Pini
Annina – Antonella Trevisan
Alfredo Germont – Massimo Giordano
Giorgio Germont – Vladimir Stoyanov
Gastone – Gianluca Floris
Barone Douphol – Armando Gabba
Marchese d’Obigny – Filippo Polinelli
Dottore Grenvil – Roberto Tagliavini
Giuseppe – Iorio Zennaro
Un domestico di Flora – Roberto Scandura
Un commissionario – Matteo Mazzoli
Parma Teatro Regio Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Martino Faggiani)
Yuri Temirkanov, conductor
Karl-Ernst Herrmann and Ursel Hermann, stage directors
Karl-Ernst Herrmann, set, costume, and lighting designer
Television Director: Tiziano Mancini
Recorded live at the Teatro Regio di Parma, 9, 13, 15 October 2007