An absolute treasure for opera enthusiasts and fans of Verdi(the Sutherland, Bergonzi and Merrill recording of La Traviata was my first complete Verdi listen 10 years ago and I've been a fan since). Not quite as grand as the series on Wagner from the same time-frame, plus Richard Burton gives a performance of a life-time, but Verdi's style, his life and him as a person may be much more accessible. Am a fan of Wagner's music, but he was known as a terrible man(Youtube users never let people forget how he was an Anti-Semetic bigot) and Parsifal especially is exhausting for a first time viewer. Personally first exposure was through the 1983 film of the opera which was admittedly rather too heavy on the symbolism so that could have something to do with it.
Getting onto the point, there is very little wrong with this series. There is however some sloppy dubbing and Burt Lancaster's narration can overbear things(some of his mispronunciations are annoying too). The rest however is fabulous. It is very sumptuously mounted and the photography matches that quality. Nobody really needs to say how good Verdi's music is, fans will argue that his music is some of the best of the entire opera medium, I for one share that opinion. It's even greater when the singing is so good, from some of the best singers ever to sing his music, Pavarotti, Tebaldi, Callas and Nilsson are immediately recognisable and sound incredible.
Verdi is intelligently written, sensitively staged with no over-doing. The composer's story is fascinating and is told in an absorbing way, a way that also shows great enthusiasm for the subject. Any important parts are not skimmed over and have their impact. Ronald Pickup's Verdi is note-perfect and Carla Fracci matches him in a nuanced performance. All the roles are well-done and don't fall into caricature- and it is easy to do that- too much. Overall, an outstanding series that is deserving of a much better DVD release, the Kultur version doesn't really do it justice. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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