VERDI: La traviata
Angela Gheorghiu (Violetta); Ramón Vargas (Alfredo); Roberto Frontali (Giorgio); Natascha Petrinsky (Flora); Tiziana Tramonti (Anina); Enrico Cossutta (Gastone); Ballet, Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala/Lorin Maazel, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD 101 343 TT: 134 min.

VERDI: La traviata
Kristiane Kaiser (Violetta); Jean-Francois Borras (Alfredo);Georg Tichy (Giorgio); Magdalena Anna Hofmann (Flora); Stefanie Kopinits (Annina); Michael Kurz (Gastone); Slovak Philharmonic Chorus and Orch/Ernst Märzendorfer, cond.
MEDICI ARTS DVD VIDEO 2057218 TT: 134 min.

MASCAGNI: Cavalleria rusticana
Ildiko Komlosi (Santuzza); Sung Kyu Park (Turiddu); Cinzia De Mola (Lucia); Marco di Felice (Alfio); Barbare Di Castri (Lola); Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro di San Carlo/ Zhang Jiemin, cond.
TDK DVD VIDEO DVWW-OPCAV TT: 78 min + 31 min "bonus"

This is Angela Gheorghiu's second video of La traviata. The first was filmed in Royal Opera House in December 1994, the soprano's first performance of Violetta, and featured Sir Georg Solti on the podium (REVIEW). The new one is from performances in the summer of 2007 at La Scala, a revival of Liliana Cavani's 1990 production with lavish sets by Dante Ferretti. Unquestionably, Gheorghiu is among today's leading interpreters of the role of Violetta, vocally and dramatically. She is partnered by Ramon Vargas, an excellent Alfredo; the entire cast is strong and Lorin Maazel, after a surprisingly tame act one party scene, keeps things moving. Gabriella Pescucci's costumes, as in so many opera productions today, bring new meaning to the word "cleavage," but there are no mishaps.The other new Traviata is an outdoor stage production from the Opernfestspiele St. Margarethen July 11, 2008. Visually this is a magnificent venue for outdoor opera, but a challenge for producers and directors as well as singers. All featured singers must wear microphones which usually are relatively unnoticeable except for Georg Tichy as Giorgio Germont. The strong cast is headed by Kristiane Kaiser who is a remarkable Violetta. During curtain calls we have the opportunity to see conductor Ernst Märzendorfer, familiar to many collectors for his many recordings over the years. After the final curtain calls we see a spectacular fireworks display over the stage area, accompanied by music from Verdi's opera. Video and audio are first-rate, considering the outdoor circumstances. These are two intriguing DVDs of Verdi's masterpiece.

This performance of Cavalleria rusticana was recorded during performances in July 2007 in the Roman baths open-air theater in the port of Baia close to Naples. This is a beautiful site indeed, and set designer Manfred Waba has taken advantage of the venue's rock formations and hills in his production. The orchestra pit is center front on the stage area. An incline leads up to the primary stage, and stairs continue up to yet another level. After the opening prelude, Turiddu is seen and heard in the distance up on the mountain singing to Lola; otherwise most action takes place on the lower stage areas. The performance is unexceptional. Ildiko Komlosi, a disappointing Amneris in La Scala's recent Aida (REVIEW), is better suited for Santuzza, but there's not much fire in her performance. Her Turridu, Sung Kyu Park, is inappropriate for the role both vocally and dramatically. Others in the cast are excellent, but, in spite of her flailing arms, Zhang Jiemin's conducting misses much of the passion of the score. Outdoor acoustics are not kind to the orchestra, and singers wear small microphones, usually invisible. Photography and audio are excellent, but this Cav doesn't match the magnificent La Scala DVD featuring Plácido Domingo and Elena Obraztsova (REVIEW), which also includes an equally fine Pagliacci with Domingo: the new TDK "bonus" is a half-hour feature on historic Baia interspersed with excerpts from the opera.

R.E.B. (November 2008)