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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Modernized Staging of Verdi Classic Is Truly Better Seen Than Just Heard

Author: Ed Uyeshima from San Francisco, CA, USA
1 August 2006

With some reservations, I enjoyed the two-disc CD recording of this fulsome performance of Verdi's "La Traviata" released late last year. Under the direction of Carlo Rizzi leading the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic), the classic opera represents a prime opportunity to intertwine grand romantic melodrama with many of the composer's most famous arias and duets. Even though there are choruses and set pieces, it is really more a chamber opera, and you need three powerfully sculpted voices to make this a momentous occasion. Removing the visual element, the performance feels variable in spots despite the immense talent involved.

However, now that I can see and appreciate director Willi Decker's spare, modernist staging at the 2005 Salzburg Festival on this 2006 Deluxe Edition DVD package, the opera becomes a more emotionally transcendent experience. He takes the passing of time as his primary leitmotif in the form of a gigantic clock with Death taking an ever-present human form. The costuming is stylishly modern-dress, while the few color-coordinated set pieces would look appropriate in an Upper West Side art gallery. Based on Alexandre Dumas's play, "The Lady of the Camellias", the opera's tragic love story is the same in this adaptation, but the overall attitude reflects a greater sense of liberation with the period melodrama mostly excised. Purists will be offended, especially those married to the Callas or more recent Angela Gheorghiu versions.

As the passionate Violetta Valéry, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko is an inarguably stunning woman made for the camera. Less the courtesan of the classic version and more a hedonistic party girl (like a more melancholy Holly Golightly), parading in her deep red cocktail dress, she convincingly performs the role with alternating waves of gusto and poignancy. Vocally, Netrebko complements her fiery presence with an impressive performance that gives way to equal parts great passion and deep love once she discovers renewed life with her lover Alfredo. Offering shimmering roulades, she nails her much anticipated Act I climax and maximizes her lower register in her burnished handling of the final aria. Her less-than-perfect Italianate diction is not as problematic here as it is on CD when we are robbed of her beauty.

Given the dominance of Violetta, Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón more than holds his own with Netrebko as the smitten Alfredo. In fact, he is a better actor than she in displaying his character's tentative nature at the beginning, followed in turn by his swooning romanticism, seething anger and broken-hearted resignation. Displaying an exceptionally agile voice and an almost improvisational-sounding style in his phrasing and inflections, he brings his arsenal of skills together most effectively in his Act II opening. In this scene, Alfredo and Violetta prance around in persistent afterglow in their floral bathrobes on a matching floral sofa.

In fact, there is a great deal of physicality in the production to make the sexual tension reverberate, and the party-loving, black-suited chorus is equally as animated. All the while, Netrebko and Villazón generate true chemistry while blending seamlessly in their duets. American baritone Thomas Hampson comes across much better on the DVD than the CD, where he is recognizably the weak link. Looking more engaged onstage, he brings the appropriate emotional fervor to his confrontation scenes with Violetta and sounds effectively resolute in his ending aria in Act II. The death scene still seems too elongated for the drama preceding it, and Rizzi does not help with his lugubrious pacing at this juncture.

The entire opera is on the first disc of the 2006 two-DVD set, and it is blessedly captured with clarity both visually and aurally. The second disc contains a number of extras, the most important being a 45-minute behind-the-scenes featurette chronicling the painstaking preparation of the production. Netrebko and an especially precocious Villazón are interviewed throughout. Villazón also does a three-minute introduction of the opera in German, obviously done for its TV airing. There is an automatic slide show of photos from the production set to the "Brindisi", a Netrebko discography, and lastly, a ten-minute highlights segment of Netrebko's rather self-aggrandizing video collection, "The Woman...The Voice".

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Fabulous New Production

Author: Gregory Leong from Launceston, Australia
3 November 2006

First of all the three principals are faultless.

Ever since the first time I heard Villazon on the radio one became aware of a major tenor talent on the horizon. Everything one hears him sing is imbued with the ability to excite (not necessarily move).The voice and technique are used to stir one's sensibilities into a state of unreason. It is not a gentle response. If you can cope with this ravaging, you will love this man's singing. (he is savagely wonderful as Werther, for example, a sturm and drang hero for whom reason must be banned in favour of self-torment). It is unfortunate that he looks like a Latin version of British comic ikon MR. BEAN. But once he opens his mouth, forget Rowan Atkinson....

Anna Netrebko I think is just generally overrated. In the marketing of this DVD, she is touted as the be-all and end-all of the show, instead of the more deserving Villazon. But, one has to admit, in this production she is perfect. Beautiful as this particular Violetta. Passionate singing and acting in every scene.

Thomas Hampson, an amazing singer and actor, also makes a wonderful job of his role, especially in his Act 2 confrontation with Alfredo (an exhilarating and uneasy marriage between paternal love and the monstrous male need to control someone weaker). The only thing that mars the casting of Hampson as the older Germont is his physical incompatibility with Villazon.

Traditionalists will lament the minimalist sets, the idea of old-man Time and the all invasive Dali-esquire clock, and the chorus of party-goers all frocked in black. But oh how it works!

The emptiness of the stage is the emptiness of Violetta Valery's life. When it is full of people there is only chaos in the activity. This all contributes to how we are made to focus on the bare essentials - the true emotions expressed by the three main characters.

This is my very favourite Traviata film, preferred even over the Stratas/Domingo or Anna Moffo's B&W classic.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Anna Netrebko is mesmerizing

Author: Samir Eldib from Alexandria, Egypt
5 February 2007

I am glad of possessing this production of Verdi's masterpiece La was premiered at the 2005 Salzburg Festival. Anna Netrebko is mesmerizing as Violetta Valery,Rolando Villazon was very good,with whom she also performed in L'Elisir d'Amore in 2005,also a must for Anna Netrebko fans.La Traviata is conducted by Carlo Rizzi,the production is modern but very good,picture quality is excellent,the audio is superb with DTS. Anna Netrebko sang a highly regarded Romeo et Juliette also with Rolando Villazon. A must for La Traviata fans.I was deeply touched to the degree that I watched it three times on three consecutive days.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Very good if not outstanding

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
25 July 2011

I am a huge opera fan, and La Traviata has always been a big favourite and certainly in the top 5 of my favourite Verdi operas. When it comes to films/productions I prefer the 1982 and 1968 films and I also love the 1992(with Gruberova, Shicoff and Zancanaro) and 2006 productions.

What I love about La Traviata chiefly are the strongly defined characters, Violetta is a lead character that you will never forget, the heartfelt story and the magnificent music, although people will know Parigi O Cara, Brindisi, the act 1 & 3 prologues, Di Provenza and Sempre Libera, my favourites are Addio Del Passato and especially Ditta Alle Giuvine, and I love the finale to act 2 as well.

This Traviata is very good but not outstanding. I had no problem whatsoever with the more modernised costuming, Netrebko's red dress is stunning and she in it, and while the sets(of a sofa, chair and clock) are limited and not as sumptuous as I have known other Traviatas to be they are decent enough.

The orchestra are superb, playing with real musicality and pathos in the prologues, Ditta Alla Giuvine and Addio Del Passato and Brindisi and Sempre Libera are enough to raise the spirits. Carlo Rizzi's conducting is mostly solid, but the tempo of the final scene plods a little too much for my liking making Violetta's death not as moving as it could have been.

The chorus are very well balanced and animated, the sound is of good quality and the photography is great and serves the singers well particularly Netrebko whose looks show she was made to stand there in front of the camera. The support cast are fine, Flora especially is delightful.

The leads are superb. I am not a fan of Anna Netrebko or Rolando Villazon, though I have nothing really against them, but I do like Thomas Hampson quite a bit.

Anna Netrebko is much better than expected as Violetta. She is a stunningly beautiful woman, she is a good actress and she has a great voice, however her diction is less than perfect and I have had reservations about her colouratura before having never liked her high E flats, finding they sound almost a semitone too flat. However, her colouratura here is a little more secure, and she sings very musically and movingly.

I was also impressed with Rolando Villazon. Here he shys away from his manic Mr Bean-like persona and shows an Alfredo that is dashing, poignant and somewhat bitter too. He certainly looks the part, he does have an appealing tenor voice and his chemistry with Netrebko and his reaction to Violetta's death are genuine. He also sings Lunge Da Lei very well.

Thomas Hampson's Germont is sympathetic, stern, distinguished and even overbearing. His chemistry with Netrebko and Villazon is notable, he is a gifted actor, his Di Provenza is intelligently phrased and Ditta Alla Giuvine is for me one of this Traviata's highlights.

In conclusion, I really liked this Traviata but I wanted to love it more than I did. 8/10 Bethany Cox

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Good Try

Author: dgz78 ( from United States
7 February 2011

First off, I am glad I watched this production of La Traviata. As long as the performers can carry a tune better than Rosie O'Donnell it is hard to not be moved by such a masterpiece.

And I'm always open to updating productions or remaking classic movies. While some like the original, the Bogart Maltese Falcon is my favorite. I also enjoyed the Mitchum Farewell My Lovely more than the original but not Mitchum's remake of The Big Sleep. But just because an epic work is modernized does not make it improved. Different is not always better.

I understand what the idea was to strip the set of almost all fixtures and make a giant clock the focal point of the stage. But for me it detracts from what the leads are doing. The clock beats us over the head about the theme of Violetta's descent. Anyone that has a passing knowledge of Traviata knows the story and doesn't need a giant clock to know how the story ends. The set seems like something made to impress a bunch of grad school dropouts that meet every evening at the local Starbucks.

I think it was in Gatsby where someone says they always feel more alone in a big crowd. Here, even in her red dress, Violetta seems lost among the mask wearing men at the party. Violetta has to dominate any production of La Traviata and here she seems reduced and trivialized.

That said, Netrebko is a very good Violetta. Her arias at the end of the first act are a highlight of any Traviata and Netrbko doesn't disappoint.

Rolando Villazon turns in the best performance, going from the high of endless devotion to bitter scorn and back to deep love for Violetta.

But I had a hard time ignoring the huge, stark set and when you have singers like Netrebko and Villazon there is no need to upstage their voices.

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2 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

How to ruin an Opera (or have a good try at doing so!)

Author: christopherjanethardiman from United Kingdom
9 May 2007

The trouble with directors or in this case 'stagers', is that they seem unable to leave a good thing alone.

So here we have 'Traviata' which is supposed to show the principal character's opulent living at the one end, and the subsequent squalor at the other. Hence you should have sets - one opulent - the other shabby! Instead, we have a set comprising a sofa, a chair and a clock! For goodness sake, spare us this sort of pretentiousness!

Don't get me wrong - I don't mind updating Operas, or putting them in a modern setting, if it's done well and if it works, but this kind of mistreatment is not necessary or clever and it doesn't work!

I was going to give a rating of only five stars to this, but the singers are superb, and Verdi's music is still wonderful.

For the singers, and for Maestro Verdi six stars - for the production - none!

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