Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Anthony Tommasini on "La Traviata"

"To help me put the Met’s current 'Traviata' in context, I relistened to three classic recordings: Toscanini’s live 1946 performance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra … Carlo Maria Giulini’s live 1955 performance at La Scala Opera in Milan … and Carlos Kleiber’s studio recording with the Bavarian State Orchestra, released in 1977. … Toscanini … could certainly claim a direct link to the Verdi heritage. But by the 1940s he was in his towering maestro mode, determined to clean up the indulgent mess, as he saw it, that had come to be considered the Italian opera style. … Under Toscanini the duet lasts 2 minutes 30 seconds. Under Giulini, nearly 4 minutes: a stunning difference. … Kleiber, the great Berlin-born conductor, finds a happy medium in his splendid 'Traviata,' with Ileana Cotrubas as Violetta and Plácido Domingo as Alfredo, both superb. His tempo for 'Un dì felice' has a gentle gait, a bit slower than Toscanini’s. The restraint allows the singers a little more room to stretch and bend the lines. As the voices blend during the final phrases, they sing with delectable pianissimo tenderness, especially Mr. Domingo’s. The duet is just 30 seconds longer than in Toscanini’s performance" ("Music," New York Times, 4/5/10).


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