CAST: Violetta Valéry: Montserrat Caballé, Alfredo Germont: Carlo Bergonzi, Giorgio Germont: Sherrill Milnes, Flora Bervoix: Dorothy Krebill, Annina: Nancy Stokes, Gastone: Fernando Iacopucci, Barone Douphol: Gene Boucher, Marchese D’Obigny: Thomas Jamerson, Dottor Grenvil: Harold Enns, Giuseppe: Camillo Sforza, Flora’s Servant: Flavio Tasin
Orchestra e Coro della RCA Italiana
Georges Prêtre, conductor
This Traviata is one of Montserrat Caballé’s best recordings. A wonderful cast, a brilliant conductor and the beautiful complex of the RCA are the elements that make this Traviata rightly entered the history.
Conductor Georges Prêtre, who has often been criticized, stresses very well instead the most important aspects of the score, making this a fine and elegant interpretation. Regarding the choices of times, which were the most blamed part of the direction, I do not think they are inappropriate, considering that they did not prejudice the brightness of the opera. Moreover, Prêtre leaves the da capo and the cabaletta No, non udrai rimproveri, too often unjustly cut.
There are many who think that Montserrat Caballé has sung everything and maybe that has sung too much, but it remains unquestionable that the Spanish soprano has been able to give us interpretations of incomparable beauty, like this one. She is an ideal Violetta, limiting the interpretation to the pathetic and sentimental side of the character, but she knows how to be perfect in a part where there is no exaggerate emphasis and which permits her to display a spectacular coloratura in the first act, with magnificent and secure high notes, that are echoed and contrasted by notes sung in pianissimo. Brilliant in Sempre libera, Caballé is sorrowful in the second act and becomes simply disconsolate in Addio del passato, where there is not much regret of «the past» as a tired remission.
Carlo Bergonzi’s Alfredo is missing the youthful impulsiveness that is the peculiarity of the character, but he is also the best tenor you could wish for the role, which suits him both for style and voice. Then it seems to me that his voice amalgams well to the protagonist’s one and the duets are perhaps the most beautiful pieces of the opera.
A young Sherrill Milnes is Giorgio Germont, who shares with his musical son a special politeness, probably due to some deficiency in the psychological definition of the character. Ironically, this involuntary courtesy becomes thus the most important value of the Germonts. Beyond this, Milnes displays vocal purity and impeccable phrasing and diction, except (for the last) for some double letters, and his Giorgio Germont is one of the best you may wish for.