Angela Gheorghiu, Frank Lopardo,
Leo Nucci; Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus/Sir Georg
DECCA DVD 071 431-9
[135 min] (All Regions
S&H's inveterate opera-goers
were reported in January. This historic performance, captured on video for
TV in 1994, comes across with the stamp of a vivid and special live event.
The young Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu was tackling
Traviata for the first time and -incredibly- Solti was conducting
it for the first time towards the end of his long career. Gheorghiu sounds
nervous at her first appearance in the opening scene, rather than it being
a calculated display of the doomed, consumptive heroine's vulnerable frailty.
Her vibrato in the party scene after the Prelude is too edgy and tense in
her display aria as the experienced and sophisticated Parisian society courtesan.
I wondered if the microphone was exaggerating it, which can happen in the
cases of performances which sound convincing in the opera house. No, for
all settled down within a few minutes, Gheorghiu relaxed in her singing and
her characterisation was subtle and detailed throughout, under Richard Eyre's
traditional, but carefully observed, own operatic debut.
The other lead singers are very adequate, if not memorable in their own right
- but this, more than nearly any other in the operatic canon of favourites,
is a one woman opera. Verdi, however, makes huge demands upon the sensibility
of his conductors, and Solti is here at his inspiring best, lyrical and urgently
thrusting forward as required, the orchestra sounding marvellous supporting
the singers and when it takes over as protagonist. It is also a great pleasure
to have the short visual samples of Solti conducting the preludes to the
acts; I still have some reservations about watching conductors through complete
orchestral concerts on video & DVD, but here I felt the proportion was
exactly right, and Solti in action, whether performing or talking, is always
invigorating to watch.
The sound is splendid played on my new Sony DVD player and Hi-Fi system and,
essentially theatrical though Traviata is, it works well watched on a small
screen at home, so that one becomes involved and absorbed in Angela/Violetta's
renunciation of true love and her ultimate fate. It is a valuable and moving
memento of an important moment in the career of this now adored young diva,
who is a popular favourite at the turn of the Millennia.
The colour is fine, but one important point of warning. Viewing Decca's
Traviata on either of my two Sony TVs (one elderly, the other brand
new) I was only able to see this DVD (and another, of Rosenkavalier,
released by DG) in black and white - actually, I found that perfectly
satisfactory, with a good range of greys, as in the best b&w film or
still photography, but AW felt deprived without colour, and so, I guess,
would many readers!
It took a lot of experimentation to ascertain that neither the DVD machine
nor the DVD discs were faulty, as first suspected, and that to cope with
these DVDs from Universal the purchase of another TV set has to be the solution
- there had been no problems with a number of Arthaus DVDs already reviewed.
The explanation can be found on p.7 of the insert booklet; these NTSC DVDs
(whatever that means) can only be played on "PAL/NTSC compatible (dual-standard)"
DVD machines and TVs.
So S&H readers wondering whether
to embark upon augmenting their CD playing equipment with DVD capability
may be wise to explore carefully the expenditure required in their individual
cases if they want to be able to play all the music DVDs which are likely
to be purchasable in UK.
Peter Grahame Woolf