DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

VERDI: La Traviata (complete opera), Blu-ray (2011)

A superb Violetta, but the production smacks of egocentricity.

Published on January 20, 2012

VERDI: La Traviata (complete opera), Blu-ray (2011)

VERDI: La Traviata (complete opera), Blu-ray (2011) 

Conductor: Tecwyn Evans
Performers: Marlis Petersen (Violetta)/ Giuseppe Varano (Alfredo)/ James Rutherford (Giorgio) /Graz Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
Director: Peter Konwitschny
Studio: Arthaus Musik 108 036 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 1080i Full HD Color
Audio formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0, PCM Stereo
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Korean
Extras: La Traviata in Graz – an Introduction by Ioan Holender
Length: 130 minutes
Rating: *** 

There are two notable things about this production: hearing Marlis Petersen—a very powerful singer and superb actress—in the role of Violetta, and the emergence of director Peter Konwitschny, European stage Meister and sought-after all over the world, appearing in, of all places, Graz. The first is a tempting morsel towards acquiring this video; the second loses all attraction once the video is actually seen.

Quite simply, this is one opera production that could almost exist as a staged concert performance. There are very few sets as such, most of the action occurring on the outside of a closed or semi-closed curtain. Peter Konwitschny does do a good job of enhancing Violetta’s status as the only “genuine” human being in the opera, but even here I am not sure this is a valid interpretation of Verdi’s intentions. There is also a an Act II “assault” on Violetta by Alfredo that takes place in a sort of hazed darkness that looks an awful lot like a rape, only to have Giorgio (Alfredo’s dad) come out afterwards and decry men who “insult” women! Really? Insult? That line made me laugh considering what had apparently just take place.

The caricature of Alfredo as a nerdy accountant who couldn’t get a woman like Violetta if he paid double for her is likewise a little on the stretched side—one just cannot figure out why she would have any interest in him at all, money or not. Violetta, contrary to Peter Konwitschny’s expectations, is most assuredly not the only human player in this tragedy, and his role compliments hers and fulfills it in many ways, which is not the impression we get in this production.

There are a few Traviatas on Blu-ray, the latest being the one with Fleming at the Royal Opera that I reviewed recently. This Salzburg Euro-trash production is silly but wonderfully sung and very moving (with Netrebko), while many gravitate to the La Scala production with Angela Gheorghiu, not my favorite Verdi soprano, but as the Blu-ray is only about $10 it is awfully tempting.

The sound on this production is very good, and the visuals—such as they are—very well focused. I just wish there was more here. The principles, aside from Marlis Petersen, are all excellent, though not quite the quality of the Fleming disc.

Steven Ritter




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