Deutsche Grammophon's reissue of its 1963 recording of La Traviata should be an essential part of the library of anyone who loves the opera because Renata Scotto's Violetta is so beautifully sung and dramatically realized. Scotto was at the beginning of her career, not yet 30, when she made this recording, three years before her acclaimed Madama Butterfly with John Barbirolli. Her voice is wonderfully fresh, with a youthful bloom that makes Violetta's plight especially poignant. She is in complete control; her tone is pure, full, and sweet; and her coloratura is agile, but it's her exceptional ability to act with her voice that makes her Violetta so memorable. This was the role in which she had made her debut when she was 18, and she inhabits it fully. She's entirely believable and inexorably draws the listener into the tragedy that Violetta's life becomes. It's a portrayal so vivid that not all of the rest of the cast can avoid being dwarfed by it. Only Ettore Bastianini holds the listener's attention as compellingly as Scotto; his Giorgio Germont is emotionally complex, with the power and gravity necessary to convincingly make Violetta bend to his will. His voice is dark and rich, and his scenes with Violetta are among the strongest and most moving ensembles on the recording. Gianni Raimondi as Alfredo has a warm, ringing tenor, but it's not a large instrument, and especially in his scenes with Scotto, the listener is aware of the imbalance of their pairing. He occasionally has problems with intonation, and some of his "Un di felice" is dangerously under pitch. He's also somewhat diffident as Alfredo. He gives the impression that he's going through all the right motions to portray a passionate lover, but he's not fully persuasive; unlike Scotto's natural, spontaneous-sounding performance, Raimondi's leaves the listener aware that he's acting. Antonino Votto leads the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala in a reading that's beautifully paced and full of tenderness and drama, with scrupulous attention to the details of the score. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is present and realistic, but there is a little tape hiss that's noticeable in the quieter passages.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Track Listing - Disc 1
|La Traviata, opera|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|La Traviata, opera|