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99 of 103 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 9, 2010
I saw this recording listed and thought there must be some catch; La Traviata performed at La Scala on Blu-ray for less than $10 didn't seem possible. I'm delighted to report it's for real! This is a production of the entire opera on stage at La Scala recorded live with audience in 2007.

As one would expect, the production is first class; the chorus and orchestra do a fabulous job and the settings are worthy of La Scala. The icing on the cake is the singers; all major rolls are well sung and generally look the part. The tenor, Ramon Vargas has less of a stage presence than the tenor on my other recording of La Traviata, Placido Domingo, but one should not hold that against lesser mortals.

Since the performance is a live production, the audience response is recorded as well; using the DTS-HD Master Audio places the listener in the Teatro alla Scala di Milano at this 2007 production. It's pretty exciting!

The HD video is so detailed I believe I could have counted the dots in the material on Violetta's sleeve in the first act. I have an OPPO BDP-83 connected to my Samsung T220HD TV/Monitor and when playing it on this set up one might say there is too much detail to be seen. I'm sitting much farther back with my primary surround system and will freely confess that less is more in this regard.

If you enjoy Verdi, and La Traviata in particular, I highly recommend you get this recording. The sound track offers both LPCM stereo and the DTS-HD Master Audio and does a great job on both.

I have viewed some of the bonus features and had mixed feelings about them; I am something of a traditionalist and have problems with productions of Siegfried that have a chest freezer sitting in the background; but that's just me I suppose. The section from Giselle looked very interesting and seemed to promise a good performance of that ballet.

This is another one I'm delighted to have in my collection!
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 4, 2008
This new DVD from Arthaus faces formidible competition from Gheorghiu's first Violetta on Decca; this was her "double" debut, both on DVD and CD. It was her first undertaking of the role and clearly she meant to make it her own. The conductor, Solti, allows for the second verses to arias that are either frequently cut (O mio rimorso and Addio del passato) and includes the cabaletta to Di provenza--not one of Verdi's most inspired moments.

This new DVD uses sets that were new in 1990 although I don't think anyone could lodge a complaint in this area: they are opulent, plush and quite gorgeous. The conservative opera goer will have no complaint here. If memory serves me correctly this is the same production that featured Tiziana Fabriccini, an interpretation that was very controversial, Roberto Alagna and Paolo Coni and conducted by Muti. It should be re-released by whoever has the licensing rights.

Gheorghiu matches all the excellences of her earlier performance. She always looks stunning, sings beautifully and is an accomplished actress. I can't think of any other singer who has this role in her repertoire could match this diva. Yes, it's true that she doesn't take the optional high D at the end of the first act aria, but that's what it is: an option. Her performance is nuanced and touching. I have heard some of Fleming's performance but I find her superficial and dramatically utterly uninvolved. (A downside to the LOs Angeles DVD is Bruson who in his prime was a baritone to be reckoned with; here, at 70 (!) his tone is partched and is afflicted with a wobble which is very distressing.)

Vargas is a great improvement over Lopardo who is somewhat wooden and appears uncomfortable. The former would never be accused of being a great actor but his instincts are always right and while not being "handsome" he has a cherubic sweetness that is very engaging. He has clearly thought out the requirements of the music and brings a great deal of imagination. A pity that the second verse of O mio rimorso was cut as it spoils the musical balance that Verdi was aiming for. (Gheorghiu was also denied her second verse in the Addio del passato.)

Frontali is a vast improvement over Nucci who by rights should be able to shine in this role; the latter became a "Verdi baritone" by default. His milieu is clearly in the Donizetti/Bellini/Rossini operas. the voice is slender, but well focused, but I prefer Fontali's bigger more rugged sound. Of course he has no competition--at least none that I know of on the horizon.

Initially I had my doubts about Maazel. In the 70's (I am hazarding a guess)he recorded Traviata with Lorengar, Aragall and DFD. It was a near complete text if I recall, but Decca management doubtless came down with the mandate to get it on two LP discs. As a result the tempi were brutal in many cases and even though the set did garner some good reviews I have no doubt that it was due to Lorengar. Here Maazel seems much more relaxed and at one with the score. In short one of the best performances of Traviata that I have heard.

For those who want or require a regie Traviata stay away. There is no Konzept here. I would dearly love to see the Venice performance (again Maazel I believe) and even though what I have seen of Villazon/Netrebko is more than offputting (more due to Rizzi who seems to be this generation's Molinari-Pradelli). The cover on the Bel Aire DVD is a Maryln Monroe 'manque"--not the association I make with Traviata. OTOH if a conventionally staged, directed production of this opera is what you want I can only recommend this new set.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2008
Puccini - La Boheme (The Metropolitan Opera HD Live Series)
The opening night of this production at La Scala last year was greeted by controversy that got the star soprano and conductor lustily booed by the angry audience. The Italian papers came up with some speculations as to why that nasty audience response happened. When I first looked at the cover of this DVD, the first thing I noticed was the pretty picture of Angela Gheorghiu ; the next, the names of Ramon Vargas and Roberto Frontali were printed significantly smaller than the names of the soprano and conductor Lorin Maazel. I thought it was in bad taste and slighted the other two principals who are top Verdi singers of this generation with distinguished operatic careers. After listening to the performance on this DVD, I thought I had a better take on the controversy than those Italian papers. My theory is that the soprano and conductor hatched a
scheme to do something on that first night performance that would surely enrage the passionate La Scala audience and make themselves the wronged victims. In a subsequent performance used for this DVD, they performed tremendously, and the guilt-ridden and contrite boo birds apologized with huge ovations for them, which was the object of their plot to sell this DVD. But to further reward the conspirators by printing their names much larger than everyone else is going too far. Having said that, the performance here is superb.

Despite some negative comments in the papers about the 20-yr old production sets used here, I prefer it to the Met's Zeffirelli production with its extremes and some garishness particularly in Act2. It's a relief to see Violetta in her last moments in a modest but decent surroundings, not in some dilapidated warehouse. All principals are in top form. As noted earlier, Vargas and Frontali are preeminent Verdi singers and great choice as the Germonts. Gheorghiu is not a typical or traditional Verdi soprano (the likes of Tebaldi, Freni or even Moffo) but she has a beautiful, expressive voice with dark shades for a wide range of expressions and is a very convincing actress. With sensitive and generous partners in Vargas, Frontali and Maazel, she can be a marvelous Violetta as demonstrated on this disc. My little complaint is the stage direction and coaching that let Vargas do a lot of distracting things while singing his one aria in Act2 - looking for cup and saucer, pouring his coffee, and singing his one-verse O Mio Rimorso while lugging a suitcase and rummaging through some unmentionables looking for a document. Miraculously, he did not miss a beat and sang with his customary elegance and vibrancy in rich and burnished tones. For the most part, the singing and acting of the three principals, the contributions of everyone, comprimarios, dancers, chorus, orchestra and , of course, the crafty Maazel throughout the opera - all make this brilliant DVD a must have and worthy addition to everyone's collection of this wonderful opera.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2010
Update 11/19/2011: I originally posted the review below in which I complained about the DTS surround track. Since then, I've bought a newer AVR which supports high-resolution audio such as the DTS-HD MA on this disc. My previous AVR didn't have an HDMI input, so I connected the video using HDMI directly to my HDTV, and used a digital optical cable for the audio from my Blu-Ray player to the AVR. This worked well for my other Blu-Ray discs, because the high-resolution audio was down-mixed to a a five-channel surround mix that sounded fine. For some reason, this Blu-Ray did not sound fine using that system, but it sounds great with my new AVR. The vocals are clear and no longer sound overwhelmed by the orchestra, and the orchestra sounds clear and well balanced.

So I am revising my rating from 3 to 5 stars, with the caveat that you *may* experience the audio issues I described below if you do not have an AVR that has an HDMI input for your audio signal. I believe that some Blu-Ray players also output high-res audio over multi-channel analog cables as well, so that should work too If your AVR does support high resolution audio, you'll hear an outstanding performance in excellent surround sound. I'm pleased to recommend this disc, which continues to be a real bargain.

Original review: I agree with the positive reviews about the performance, and the image quality of the Blu-Ray is excellent. Unfortunately, I found the DTS surround track to be very poorly mixed, with the orchestra sounding sloppy and often overwhelming the singers. The 2-channel stereo mix is better, which would indicate that the problem with the DTS was in the processing and not inherent in the recording itself. I at first suspected the problem I was having with the DTS might have been a result of my equipment, though I haven't had any similar problems with other opera Blu-Ray discs, but after reading a review on a Blu-Ray review website complaining about the same issue, it's clear that others have experienced it, too. Still, for $9.99, you get a great performance, outstanding picture quality, and if you're willing to settle for stereo instead of surround, an acceptable sound mix.

The bonus materials consist of trailers for other productions, and the menu to access these is sluggish and clunky, hardly the best way to convince buyers to shell out for more from this company. All in all, the whole disc strikes me as a missed opportunity.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2008
I used to have the DVD of Decca version of La Traviata featuring Angela Gheorghiu. I liked it but this blu-ray provides a whole new experience with its great high definition vision and audio. Ms. Gheorghiu, as Violetta, performs amazingly in both singing and acting. It's great to observe all the details of the singer's facial expressions and gestures in hi-def. Mr. Vargas, as Alfredo, performs very well even though his acting is rather clumsy. The baritone, as the father, sings flawlessly. I thought the production was also excellent. I expected more from the Gypsy's dance/song but all in all this title deserves five stars.

This is my very first opera title in blu-ray and I'm more falling in love with blu-ray after watching this Verdi's masterpiece. I know I'll be watching it over and over again especially the first act.

Technically, it was shot in 1080i and features PCM 2.0 & DTS HDMA 7.1 audio track. No extras.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2008
In Gheorghiu's 1994 performance of La Traviata from Covent Garden (also on DVD), her singing of Violetta is fresh and captivating but you're aware that she's concentrating on the music (which is not a criticism). In this 2007 La Scala production, thirteen years more mature as a performer, she just lets loose while at the same time achieving extraordinary precision in her phrasing and in her interpretation of the role. Her performance can only be described as a "tour de force." She performs the role as if she owns it. I've never seen "E strano" and "Sempre libera" sung with such unbridled confidence. The expression on her face during the curtain call to Act I tells us she knows she nailed it. Immodest, she is not (as another reviewer pointed out).

But don't let that put you off because onstage, where it matters, Gheorghiu gives one of the most dominating opera performances I've seen. Every note is sung with clear intention. Her one minute "aria," the cry "Amami, Alfredo," accompanied by fiery orchestration, dominated by the timpani (which reappears with heartrending effect in the final bars of the opera), is worth the price of the DVD alone. It's a powerful and heartbreaking moment.

As if Gheorghiu's performance were not enough to recommend this production, I think it offers the best threesome available in Traviata on DVD. As Alfredo, Ramon Vargas may not be as expressive an actor as, for example, Rolando Villazon, but Vargas creates a touching and vulnerable Alfredo and possesses a wonderfully rich and full voice. The word "burnished" is more often used to describe a baritone, but it applies to Vargas' tenor voice. Just listen to his Act III duet with Gheorghiu, "Parigi, o cara," and you'll hear that exceptional quality to which I refer. He is far superior to Frank Lopardo who is on Gheorghiu's 1994 Traviata. Lopardo is so wooden onstage that he's not believable as her lover.

Roberto Frontali is the best Germont I've seen on DVD. Germont is often played by baritones who are too young to be Alfredo's father. These otherwise fine performers appear stiff and uncomfortable in a role that requires them to play a much older man (Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Thomas Hampson come to mind, the former in the La Fenice Traviata featuring Patrizia Ciofi and the latter in the Salzburg production featuring Anna Netrebko). But Frontali is perfect for the role. His rich bass-baritone voice just rings out in "Di Provenza." It contrasts beautifully with Gheorghiu's soprano; their duet in Act II is one of the highlights of the production.

As always, the La Scala chorus is precise in its execution and beautiful in sound. It excels on all the La Scala DVD's I own. The concertato finale to Act II, with Gheorghiu's voice soaring above the chorus, is riveting.

I guess the thrust of this review is clear: if you're an Angela Gheorghiu fan, this production is not to be missed. Add to that the stellar performances by Vargas, Frontali, the chorus, the orchestra under the baton of Lorin Maazel, and this is the best La Traviata currently available on DVD.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2010
I've spent big bucks for Anna/Rolando and Renee/Rolando Blu-Ray versions of Verdi's La Traviata, but this Angela/Ramon Blu-Ray version for under $10 is just fantastic. Plus, also included are bonus highlights of other performances. If you're willing to pay over $85 for an opera seat, you can't lose with this less than $10 Blu-Ray disc. With DTS 7.1, don't be afraid to crank it up and let your neighbors hear the music while you watch this lavish production. Go for it: push the button and order. Yes, you'll be amazed - it really is that good. Thanks Amazon for making this first rate opera so affordable and enjoyable.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2008
I was very impressed by this version. From the first minutes you understand that new era of high quality video has already become. The image is so three-D-mentional that it's even hard to see something similar in our every-day reality. Modern HD-cameras create the effect of physical presence in the scene. I saw this blu-ray at 52" plazma TV, and I felt that I'm in the scene, even can touch any object. It reminds me of my experience in IMAX-theaters.

Take into mind that creators of this production use plenty of luxury fabrics, authentic props and similiar things, and in the whole pay much attention to detailes of scenery. The ball scenes are truly of royal range.

The image of these materials has high contrast, deep colours, well-shaped textures of everything, shine of jewellery strikes your eyes, but little pity for singers and actors: you can see all their skin defects.

Quality of audio is also the same as they noted in features of blu-ray disc. Often in my blu-ray experience I face the problem that producers of so-called blu-ray discs just sell old recordings with standard audio-video quality on blu-rays without any improvements! Here all is real blu-ray quality.

I have already saw some operas on blu-rays, and think this is THE BEST!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon July 29, 2012
This production, performance and recording of La Traviata made under Maazel at La Scala intriguingly and especially comes into direct competition with Gheorghiu's own earlier début recording made with Solti conducting at Covent Garden. That is still much beloved by considerable numbers of collectors, many of whom take the view that it has established an unmatchable benchmark. Not everyone agrees of course. There have, of course, been many other recordings made since then as well as before then but this review is going to concentrate on the merits of this new disc and comment on how it compares with the earlier recording.

This is a traditional performance and shares that feature with the earlier recording. However, the stage space available at La Scala is much more generous and all three acts benefit from the extra room. The first act allows for a real sense of a large room devoted to providing pleasure and ease of movement for many guests. The second act gives an aura of luxurious spaciousness which seems appropriate to the story and the third act provides the opposite effect of a large desolate space also appropriate to the situation.

Ramon Vargas is a good singer who is able to act and communicate a sense of real communication. There are others who may take a more dominant role but in this case he is rightly subordinate to Gheorghiu. Roberto Frontali is one of the most acceptable Giorgio Germonts that I have seen. This is a difficult role to portray as it is so unsympathetic to Violetta and probably especially contrary to modern mores. Nevertheless he brings authority without bombast and is both young enough to be a strong character yet old enough to expect and demand social respect.

The remaining supporting roles are all well done with committed and believable acting combined by secure singing. Equally, the chorus are in good voice with plenty of social interaction in the crowd scenes in acts 1 and 2. The ballet dancers make a good job of their gypsy and matador moment.

The night really belongs to Gheorghiu though and in this performance she demonstrates a great advance of sheer dramatic delivery. The first act is fairly low key as appropriate to her role in the story but with act 2 she handles the relationships with the two Germonts superbly ending with a spine tingling and passionate plea not to forget her love for Alfredo as she prepares her departure from the act. The last act once more is a demonstration of `being' the role rather than acting the role. Throughout she is able to deliver all the big vocal moments and the audience are fully appreciative. This is an older woman's understanding of the part and, as such, is markedly more subtle than her earlier performance. That is one from a much younger and less sophisticated or experienced woman and is appropriate to the age she was then. In a nutshell, with these two recordings we are given the choice of either a young woman giving a fine young interpretation or an older woman giving a fine but more mature interpretation.

The orchestral contribution under the experienced leadership of Maazel is quite the equal of that delivered by Solti and the Covent Garden team.

What cannot be denied though, are the obvious advances in recorded technology where the imaging is richer with a greater range of colour. The earlier imaging suffers from over-contrasty imaging and a lack of detail on the highlights such as Violetta's ballroom dress (technically called `highlight burn-out). The sound is equally much fuller and is supplied in DTS 7.1 and stereo.

The other extraordinary advantage the new disc has is one of price as currently it is available as a budget price disc - a sort of sampler for the Arthaus catalogue. This does, of course, makes it amazingly tempting to buy whether as the only version to have or as a second. Gheorghiu fans could therefore buy both performances and solve the choice issue that way! Beware though - the older full-priced disc is still available and is by no means as attractive as this bargain disc. Order your copy with care therefore.

In summary therefore, this is a disc that Gheorghiu fans should snap up without delay as it is bound to give them great pleasure as indeed the performance clearly gave the audience at La Scala. Others who are more tentative as regards recordings by Gheorghiu should still find this a very attractive proposition especially at its present tempting price. For all of these reasons it seems that this disc fully deserves a 5 star rating for those who are attracted to the cast and venue.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2010
Beautifully presented with excellent sound and superior colour and imagery.
The Sub Titles short and concise so as to properly follow the story line without loosing visual contact. Music superb as always.
Will be getting more of these Operas as we do not have an Opera House in Tampa.
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