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Verdi: La Traviata
Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata is one of the world's most famous operas. The opera is based on a play which was an adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel entitled La dame aux Camelias. It was first produced as an opera in a Venice venue in March 1853 and continues to be a popular opera production to this day. The entire opera production is done with Italian libretto singing.
This production of Verdi's La Traviata stars Venera Gimadieva as Violetta Valéry, Michael Fabiano as Alfredo, and Tassis Christoyannis as Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont. Violetta is a courtesan at the beginning. There is an elaborate party with many guests. Alfredo comes to Violetta at the party and professes his love for Violetta. Violetta and Alfredo begin to live together in Paris but they soon face growing financial difficulties. Violetta also becomes ill. Things become difficult for their relationship.
Alfredo's father comes to Violetta and insists they should separate. Eventually, Violetta and Alfredo are no longer together and problems persist in their relationship. Alfredo feels she's fallen in love with someone else. In the final act of the opera, Violetta is even more ill. Dr. Grenvil visits her and discovers that her tuberculosis has gotten worse. She doesn't have long to live at this point. Violetta sees Alfredo one final time again in her last moments but now it is too late for them to be together. A tragic ending for Violetta and the romance between her and Alfredo.
The singing is exquisite in this production. All of the three leads have fantastic voices which are superb for the performance. Venera Gimadieva is most impressive as Violetta. It amazes how much emotion and depth she brings to her performance. Michael Fabiano isn't anywhere near as impressive as Alfredo. Though his vocals are superb, the performance was underwhelming. He was not as good of a performer as Gimadieva and seemed to excel mainly with his singing. This performance made the production less successful than it might have been otherwise. Tassis Christoyannis does a commendable job as Giorgio Germont.
The Italian libretto singing is accompanied with music by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestral is tremendous and adds a lot to the show. From a music standpoint this was an impressive opera production that succeeds. Mark Elder did well as conductor of the orchestra. The efforts by the Glyndebourne Chorus are also noteworthy.
Director Tom Cairns does not deliver a fully satisfying production. Though he cast the great Venera Gimadieva as Violetta Valéry, the rest of the production has some issues. The opera staging was awkward at times as there was often too many people on the stage with nothing to do. It's certainly something that detracted from the performances and the overall production.
The direction given to the actors was also strange at times as too much emphasis was given to them projecting their performances to the audience and not to each other. Michael Fabiano is often singing his love for Violetta across the stage from her. It takes away from some of the emotion of the story. Cairns direction makes the production less effective even though this production also features a strong lead performance, impressive music, and good costumes.
The set and costumes are designed by Hildegard Bechtler. As a costume designer, Bechtler designed beautiful clothing for all the actors and many extravagant costumes for the party sequence at the beginning. These costumes seem well suited to this type of opera. The set designs are acceptable but underwhelming for such a big production.
Bechtler's approach for the stage design was to go minimalistic but sometimes that seemed to be the wrong approach. There would often only be one table, a few stage props, and a bed for Violetta. I thought the stage design could have been better with more elaborate designs for a production of this stature.
Fans of La Traviata will most likely enjoy seeing this production of the famous opera even if there are things about it that don't work as well as they should. This is an interesting opera to experience. It's just too bad the production didn't have better direction. The main reason to see this production is to see Venera Gimadieva as Violetta Valéry. Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata is certainly going to remain one of the most famous opera produced. This version does have some merit even if it doesn't hit a home-run.
This release of Verdi's La Traviata is presented in 1080p high definition. However, it seems as though the original source material used for this release must have been in native 1080i as the release has issues with occasional interlacing problems. It's a tad disappointing and makes the presentation less pleasing. Colors and clarity are otherwise generally solid.
The release includes two lossless audio options: Uncompressed PCM stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. This was not a good surround sound presentation. The audio is too low. It is a underwhelming audio mix which is much less pronounced than it should be. Even so, music clarity and fidelity still sounds good. The singing is clear but the surround mix is barely different from a standard stereo presentation.
The opera is presented in Italian with optional English, French, German, Japanese, and Korean subtitles.
Please Note: The English subtitle option was disappointing. While many parts seemed perfectly fine, there are passages with no subtitles on screen. This was confusing and it made the opera a bit harder to follow.
Verdi's La Traviata - Once Heard, Never Forgotten (9 min.) features interviews with the main cast members: Venera Gimadieva, Michael Fabiano, and Tassis Christoyannis. There are also clips included from their performances.
An Opera for All Times (7 min.) features interviews with the production/costume designer and the choreographer of the production. The featurette also shows some behind-the-scenes dance rehearing and has clips from the show.
Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata is one of the most famous operas in the entire world. This stage production has mixed results. The lead performance impresses but the direction disappoints. Costumes are elaborate and beautiful but the stage design was too minimalistic.
The Blu-ray release has disappointing English subtitles. Certain passages were not subtitled for some reason. Verdi fans may want to rent this release but everyone else can consider it a pass.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.