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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great Violetta, but a mixed blessing otherwise, July 3, 2006
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
For the long time that this performance was out of print, it became legendary. Caballe in her prime in 1968 sang more easily than de los Angeles, more beautifully than Sills, with more technical security than Callas. She was paired with the elegantly stylish Carlo Bergonzi, always a critics' favorite. The only fly in the ointment was said to be the wayward, push-pull conducting of Georges Pretre--but how bad could that be?

Astonishingly bad, actually. Pretre takes it upon himself to distort every single number in the opera, adding arbitrary taffy pulls to the tempo, stopping the music in mid-phrase, and generally throwing the listener off balance. As a result, his lead singers are timid about cutting loose, and despite their vocal beauty, both Bergonzi and Caballe sound trapped in Pretre's grip. Of course, there's lots to love anyway. In terms of temperament, both leads are cooler than what we usually hear--these two aren't wildly passionate about each other. But they are warm, and abovee all the sounds they make are gorgeous.

If you listen to key arias (Sempre libera, De' miei bollenti spiriti) you'll know immeidately if this calmer view of Violetta's tragedy is dramatically to your liking. Callas on the one hand and Pavarotti on the other make more vivid impressions. Sherrill Milnes records his first Germont here, his second being on the great Carlos Kleiber set (DG). He has a magnificent voice but also a tendency to shout, particularly as a younger singer--the Gramophone reviewer said that Milnes seems to be addressing a public assembly--but the voice per se is mesmerizing.

In sum, a great Violetta in her prime is set in a production where things aren't perfect. But a lot is very fine.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the faithful artist, February 14, 2007
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This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
Three unalterably supreme elements contribute to the abiding love I hold for this, my favorite recorded Traviata: the singing of Montserrat Caballe and Carlo Bergonzi, and these two artists' faithfulness to Verdi's score. There is little I can add to the perfect comments below of Bartolome Mesa Gil "TOLO". With a few knowing words, he hits upon the essence of a genuine singing art - fidelity to the composer's indicated markings, and the gifts of humility that lead a singer to trust the music, finding through that faithfulness alone all the drama required to bring an operatic score to eternal life. Caballe is the finest purveyor of these irreplaceable qualities of muscianship I've ever encountered in a singer. This recording holds those elements supremely to the fore, qualities that make it the most fulfilling Traviata I've heard in forty years of listening. Search far and wide; a singer who trusts the score is a singer who will inevitably divulge its riches with everlasting conviction. Caballe and Bergonzi meet that test with a devoted embrace, and raise the operatic art by the gift of their musical faithfulness. A recording to treasure.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars vocal delights but ..., November 19, 2007
By 
Michel (Montreal, Quebec) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
The main interest of this Traviata is of course the performance of
Montserrat Caballé. Caught in her youthful prime (1967) her sound
is utterly gorgeous from top to bottom. She negociates the colora-
tura of Act I with considerable ease and elsewhere her singing is
often exquisitely beautiful. She brings elegance and refinement to
the role but ultimately her style and manner are a bit too regal
and stately for Violetta. Carlo Bergonzi is likewise all elegance
and refinement but he brought more spirit to Alfredo on his earlier
recording with Sutherland. Sherrill Milnes also caught in his youth-
ful prime sings superbly but at this early stage of his carreer he
simply sounds too young for Germont. Georges Pretre has been harshly
criticised for his conducting but despite a few erratic passages he
is fine. The score is complete with second stanzas and cabalettas in-
cluded. In sum there are a lot of vocal delights on this set to enjoy
but the end result is somewhat unconvincing dramatically.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The vocally most enchanting La Traviata finally remastered!, November 30, 2005
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
Probably no other Traviata has the detailed Verdi singing of this recording. The attention to Verdi's dynamics and markings especially by Caballe and Bergonzi proves that opera singing does not need dramatic tricks to be affective. Of course, not everyone has the technique, musicianship and vocal quality to achieve such a result. You won't find a vocally more ideal Violetta-Alfredo match on any other set!

I'm willing to buy anything Caballe recorded in the 60s and early 70s when the radiance and clarity of her voice was the best thing one could experience. Caballe has enough coloratura to cope with the first act. She doesn't hit the high E in Sempre Libera but it is a sacrifice I am willing to accept since other sopranos who do hit it, have nothing of Caballe's vocal luxury and clarity. In the next, more dramatic acts her ability to sing perfectly from pp to ff make her a very moving Violetta. The dramatic outbreaks in the sense of shouts, chest notes etc are few and sincere. It's easier to shout and bark than to sing the way this woman sings.

Similarly, Bergonzi's Alfredo is simply the most musical on records. The drama is injected in the singing just as Verdi intended it. In his first, equally magnificent Alfredo recording with the spectacular but otherwise mushy Sutherland he hits the high note in his cabaletta something he now avoids. The young Milnes, makes a convincing and imposing Germont and is vocally surprisingly firm.

What most people dislike about this recording is its conductor. I'm not an expert in this field but I know when I dislike like a conductor and believe that Pretre did an OK job. Some tempi are at times either slower or faster than usual but it's a minor distraction to me.

Even if you favour the more dramatic Traviatas starring Callas, Scotto, Cotrubas etc you should listen to this recording to hear exactly what Verdi wrote. If you listen carefully, you will be surprised to realise how much emotion clean-cut singing offers.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VERDI WOULD'VE BEEN HAPPY, December 8, 2006
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
This is for me the best Traviata on records. True, it's not perfect. What is in this world? But nobody has matched the Violetta and Alfredo of this recording. Caballé is truly magnificent, her rich creamy sound following like no other soprano on records Verdi markings. She doesn't need "to be dramatic", she finds the drama in the music. And if you listen carefully you will see how many details are subtly illuminated by her performance. This is not one on your face interpretation. She doesn't scream her pain, she sings it. Her Alfredo is a perfect match, with unequalled phrasing and style. Their breath control is the stuff dreams, not to say legends, are made of. Do listen to Callas and Di Stefano of course, but give this recording a chance. If only Verdi could have heard it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can we take art for granted?, February 24, 2013
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
This recording had been with me for many years.
La Traviata is not my favourite Verdi piece, I must admit. But it is a musically beautiful piece, with so many distinguished recordings and videos, with so many avante garde treatments available.
This performance can be considered an 'old fashioned' type of performance - the Sempre Libera does not end with an E flat, as it was not in the score in the first place. Quite incidentally, nearly ALL the vocally great Violettas do not go for this E flat. Sutherland is of course great, but others far less so. I would not name them here.
Caballe's Violetta is simply the most vocally beautiful rendition ever, and likely to remain so for a very long forseeable future! To say that she is too mature sounding for Violetta. But then, is Violetta a green girl? Such 'maturity' is really spot on for the role.
Then Carlo Bergonzi, the most neglected Italian tenor of the 20th century, yet most likely to be the greatest.
Alfredo is not such a heroic role as Manrico, Radames, Ernani,...Bergonzi's burnished yet fully lyrical tenor is really the most perfect vehicle for this role. He sounds so young, so impetuous, so alert in this recording! Perfectly on par with Caballe's Violetta in every turn in terms of vocal finesse and vocal drama.
As Germont elder, the then young Sherill Milnes demonstrates why he became in due course the top baritone at MET for more than 2.5 decades. The voice is so bouyant, with such warmth and beauty!
As others have noted, the conductor wasn't the best among the entire cast, but luckily he had with him such a terrific vocal cast.
Can this set be issued in better sound?
As it is, it seems that this eminent recording is at present being taken for granted, and much more mediocre ones have all the limelight.
Too sad.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm quite pleased :), January 3, 2011
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
La Traviata

Violetta Valéry - Montserrat Caballé
Alfredo Germont - Carlo Bergonzi
Giorgio Germont - Sherrill Milnes
Conductor - Georges Prêtre
RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra and Chorus

(Recorded June 1967)

This is an uncut performance of the opera. Included are Alfredo's aria 'O Mio Rimorso' (both verses) and Giorgio's 'No, Non Udrai Rimproveri'.

Montserrat Caballé may not have the coloratura technique of other soprani such as Callas or Sutherland who are both famous in the role, but her portrayal is convincing. Her delicate voice and sweet timbre fit the role very well and allow her to convincingly play the role of a sick, dying woman (unlike some more lush, fuller voiced soprani). Her impeccable control of dynamics are displayed throughout, frequently showing off her pianissimi, for which she is famous. Her 'Ah, fors'è lui' and 'Addio del passato' are both beautifully sung and deserve special mention.

Carlo Bergonzi's Alfredo is one of the major highlights of this recording. Some of his top notes may not be idealy placed and as a result they are sometimes pushed and slightly below pitch, but with his exemplary legato and attractive timbre, combined with the ability to phrase lines with such beauty and style make Bergonzi's Alfredo hard to match. Most impressive is his 'O Mio Rimorso', his work in the duet 'Parigi O Cara' and the final scene; which is particularly moving.

Sherrill Milnes sings a fine Giorgio Germont that is hard to fault. Though I do not feel the combination of Milnes and Bergonzi to be ideal. I feel that Giorgio Germont should sound as though he is actually older than his son Alfredo. I find that the combination of these two singers does not vocally show the age difference that there should be.

Georges Prêtre's choice of tempi is occasionally irritating. The 'Brindisi' in the first act is taken rather slowly. That said, Prêtre seems to be rather accommodating of the singer's needs and allows them to show off their talents.

This Traviata may not be the most intense reading of the score. It IS what I would refer to as a "pretty recording" (as opposed to for example, the Callas, di Stefano, Bastianini, Guilini recording of 1955 or the Albanese, Peerce, Merrill and Toscanini recording of 1946; both of which I would call "dramatic"), though that is not to say that this performance is not dramatically credible. I find myself going back to listen to this recording more than many others.

BY MITCHELL BOLDING
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Singing of the old school., October 17, 2013
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This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
This recording is an example of operatic singing that is not available now. The three principals offer singing and emotional involvement of the highest order. The conducting is prolematic but don't allow this to keep your from owning this very special performance. Highly recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remastered Treasure, October 10, 2013
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This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
How marvelous it is that RCA has dug into their treasure vault and reissued this recording! We are indeed fortunate to once again hear three of the most sublime opera voices, Ms. Caballe and Messrs. Bergonzi and Milnes, captured in their vocal prime. You'll have to search far and wide to find the roles of Violetta, Alfredo and Germont pere, more sensitively and commandingly sung. Their combined vocal prowess is truly quite amazing and deserving of a hearty round of bravos and applause!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definative Violetta, November 15, 2012
This review is from: Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre (Audio CD)
If you want an uncut recording that ticks all the boxes then this is it. Yes, I'm aware I'm excluding Callas, Cotrubas, and Scotto to name a few, but Caballe does it all here. The supporting cast of Bergonzi and a young Sherrill Milnes are magnificence. If you want the long version read the other reviews.
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Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre
Verdi: La Traviata ~ Pretre by G. Verdi (Audio CD - 2005)
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