Opera films generally remember and praise the excellent 1982 film version of LA TrAVIATA directed by Franco Zefirelli and starring Plácido Domingo and Teresa Stratas, but few know about this version from the 50's to early 70's.
And it's such a pity as this version features perhaps the best Violetta Valery ever in the stunningly beautiful and talented Anna Moffo, an Italian-American soprano who made her mark in the 60's to early 70's.
The late Moffo's rare combination of beautiful voice, great musical instincts, topnotch acting and gorgeous movie star looks truly made her ideal for this role of all roles for sopranos. In scenes like the Brindisi drinking song sequence, she practically IS Violetta, as composer Guiseppe Verdi must have imagined her! This version obviously does not have the ostentatious and sumptuous look of Zefirelli's version, but the costumes and sets are realistic all the same. The tenor Franco Bonisolli and baritone Gino Bechi are also good in their roles of Alfredo and Germont, though admittedly not as great as the fabulous Plácido Domingo or the veteran Cornell McNeill.
But it is Moffo who is clearly the reason to watch this film. We don't have a filmed version of a Callas performance, and Stratas in the Zefirelli movie looked and acted well, but her singing in that film was unfortunately not up to par for this important role, as she was supposed to have been not in top vocal health when she recorded the music.
Yes, there havebeen legendary sopranos like Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland, Beverley Sills, Monsterrat Caballé, etc. who may have given great musical performances as Violetta, but they were not the actresses that Moffois, to say nothing of Moffo's obvious advantage in being visually believable as a beautiful woman who was the toast of Paris.
The exciting Anna Netrebko is a rising star now, but musically, I still think Moffo (and many other sopranos) are superior.
For the total package, and a performance available on film, this version features the best Violetta of all.
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