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Violetta meets Alfredo and quickly falls for him. After the lovers run away together, they live in bliss for a short time. However, Alfredo's father, Giorgio, starts to interfere, concerned that Violetta's bad reputation will affect the marriage prospects of Alfredo's sister. Violetta reluctantly leaves Alfredo, but his love is so strong that it leads him to actions that have tragic consequences.Written by
Still the best cinematic rendering of an opera ever
Who else but Franco Zeffirelli could make what is the best opera movie ever? He has made several of them. After all, his productions at La Scala in the '50s catapulted that opera house once again to reign among the world's best, and preceded his move into film making. Known for lush period costume dramas, Zeffirelli surely doesn't disappoint in that department. In fact, visually, LA TRAVIATA ranks among his best work. Controversial innovations, luxurious locations, and superb casting make LA TRAVIATA even more unique. His editing down of several (repetitive) arias, and visual depiction of many of the arias' contents through flashbacks caused much controversy in Europe where I first saw it in its 1982 premiere. However, the controversy was generated by opera purists, since from a purely artistic viewpoint, not to mention a strictly cinematic one, LA TRAVIATA has never been so well expressed, in fact no opera has. The cinematic enhancements and cutting a few minutes off the running time to make the work more accessible only made opera more attractive to all. The beautiful actual locations of the Seine, old Paris, the French countryside, and opulent palaces are a treat to watch as the wonderful music, conducted by the Met's legendary James Levine is played. Neither is pushed back to the background. Both elements blend into an unforgettable whole. If one wants to see pure opera, one can buy several versions of LA TRAVIATA especially filmed live at an opera house, and watch the musicians in the orchestra pit play, the conductor's gestures, and hear the superb voices of the usually out of character (physically and age-wise) singers on stage. The performances are usually longer as many arias are repeated several times, something film can avoid through its unique advantages. In this case the performance on film runs 1 hour 45 minutes, without the elimination of any arias (just avoiding the repetition described above). In contrast, the opera house experience, including two intermissions usually runs twice that length, if not longer. This version of LA TRAVIATA is not only fine movie-making, but showcases the superb voices and musical excellence of the best of the classical recordings. With the sublime Teresa Stratas in the title role, and the now legendary Placido Domingo as her love interest, one cannot ask for better leads. They are also of believable age, and display great chemistry together. The young Domingo's fiery Latin emotions with his imposing looks, and the very slender and also young Stratas' passionate interpretation (especially in her facial gestures) are totally convincing and captivating, as are, needless to say, their vocal talents, among the greatest of the century. Added touches such as subtle shots focusing on the period's social customs, and a knock-out ballet sequence in a party scene are among the final master touches to this unique production. One simply cannot compare, say, the "classical" version released two years later featuring Dame Joan Sutherland (possibly the greatest soprano ever, but at the end of her incredible career)and Luciano Pavorotti (to whom comparable comments also apply). But two extremely overweight leads pushing sixty portraying young lovers obviously lend a different perspective of this great opera. Placido Domingo and Zeffirelli have since made more opera movies, and they are all excellent. But here, Domingo is in his prime, and looks the part. (He has obviously aged as consequent opera films were made, up to ten years later in fact.) And Zeffirelli here is still at the stage designing grand opera productions around the world, while still in his creative prime as a film maker. As for Stratas, her Violeta (la traviata, the woman led stray) is, for me, the highlight of many highlights. She combines compelling acting, unforgettable vocal agility, and (almost unheard of in opera) a very thin, attractive physique. It is almost to good to be true. Many viewers who are not opera buffs do in fact think she is a dramatic actress dubbed by a great soprano. An incredible package indeed, and this applies to the entire production. Definitely a 10. Someone should put pressure on Universal (who is still selling the same 16 year old video) to restore this gem, and re-release it on video and DVD. I just bought another VHS, and was disappointed it was still the original version. With DVD's growth, I'm sure that will soon change if it isn't already happening. Don't miss it in any version you can get your hands on.
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