Verdi: La Traviata
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The richness and command of the singing puts this among the very finest of Sutherland s later recordings. Bonynges conducting is finely sprung, the style direct, the speeds often spacious in lyrical music, generally undistracting. The digital recording is outstandingly vivid and beautifully balanced. - The Penguin Guide
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This is, as a previous reviewer has rightly remarked, a Big Sing. Sutherland certainly sounds rather too beefy, matronly and healthy of voice for a consumptive. She brings little of Cortrubas', Caballé's or Callas' delicacy to her portrayal, her vibrato has loosened somewhat, and her portrayal is generalised in comparison with more nuanced accounts, but she is in good voice; her coloratura, portamento and trill are all functioning wonderfully. She also reads Germont's letter with great feeling and dramatically makes more of her dying scene than you might have expected; the middle section of her voice in "Addio del passato" is really very beautiful and the famous top notes wholly intact. The husky lower register isn't so pleasing and she isn't really all that believable as our heroine but the singing per se is admirable.
Pavarotti is also mostly in Stand and Sing mode but for many that will be enough and he brings some passion and energy to his Alfredo. His tenor is in prime condition, ringing and honeyed by turns. He is still very good for Levine eleven years later but this remains his best recording. The delight of this recording for his fans will be Matteo Manuguerra's Germont; he sounds suitably grave and middle-aged and I love the slightly nasal timbre of his voice. His legato is exemplary and he thoroughly convinces as Germont père.
I seem to be in a minority when it comes to my dislike of Sutherland's earlier recording in that I cannot abide what I hear as her persistent flatness on top notes in "Sempre libera" and find her mushy diction and mooning manner irksome; her words are more distinct here and she is equally well partnered. Bonynge's direction is fairly leisurely to give his big voices space but the overall effect can be rather leisurely if not soporific. The recorded sound is first rate - spacious and detailed; typical of Decca's best.