July 2006

Verdi - La Traviata
Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazon, Thomas Hampson, Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic; Carlo Rizzi, conductor
DG B0005529-02
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

In reviewing solo recitals by Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon a few years ago, I remarked that they would be a dream couple in La Traviata. Here they are together in that very opera, and I am not disappointed. The heroine of this piece, Violetta, must be sung by an artist who is actually three types of soprano. In the first act she must be coloratura, in the second, spinto, and in the third, lyric. Many sopranos pull off one or two of these; Netrebko does very well with all three. Moreover, she brings tremendous dramatic intuition to the role, making us believe what is happening. Her Act I and III arias are outstanding.

Villazon provides an energetic and impetuous portrayal of Violetta’s lover, Alfredo Germont, that is superbly vocalized and passionately acted. Thomas Hampson, as Alfredo’s father, is, and sounds, more mature than Netreboko and Villazon, so that the generation gap between them in the opera is quite believable, but he also sounds tentative and ill at ease in this repertory. His voice sounds threadbare where it needs to sound rich and full. The chorus is flawless and adds a lot of sparkle to Act I and the second scene of Act II.

Conductor Carlo Rizzi leads in an alert, empathetic, and spirited manner, drawing superb results from his Viennese musicians. The recorded sound is ideal. The voices are clear, the orchestra warm and focused, and the offstage effects ideally balanced. This is one of the best new recordings of a familiar opera to come along in years.