Cher Public

Not since the Zodiac Killer…

death of operaMarlis Petersen, in her first shot at the role, is as complete a video Violetta as Rosanna Carteri, Marie McLaughlin or the young Angela Gheorghiu, and as riveting as Teresa Stratas or Anna Netrebko.” [Opera News]


    Did someone get paid to write that?
    When, pray tell, did they see Rosanna Cartieri in the role?

    • Ivy Lin

      You can see Rosanna Carteri in the role by a simple search on YT.

      • Rosina Leckermaul

        There’s also the old Victor album conducted by Monteux.

        • That is MUCH better, Meine kleine Hexe! On the film, RAI, lipsynched, and directed by the Busby Berkeley of opera TV, Rosanna RUNS away from the camera which CHASES her — it’s very funny. (TV cameras then were huge, and Busby hungers for closer than close close-ups, terrifying her). I also love the way Busby puts chubby Alfredo (the lovely sounding but despite his name not Italian Nicola Filiacuridi — Greek — he signed my score of Resurrezione, thrilled that I loved him and the great Carla Gavazzi over Giuseppe Gismondi — FLAT — and the shameless Magda) IN A SWING for “Deh miei bollenti spiriti.”. Neither Rosanna nor Nicola can really lipsynch and get lost, but veteran baritone, Carlo Tagliabue, certain there awaits a pay check, some pasta and a ballet girl after, goes right along with it.

          I LOVE that Monteux, which all the record review idiots none of whom could read a score HATED. His elegance and charm, his rhythmic buoyancy, his conviction that NOT EVERY number is a march to be beaten to death (ala Toscanini), his agogical control (just how the beat is articulated in a given phrase) that finds out some surprising harmonic and orchestral secrets in the score is just wonderful. I met him when just in high school (a most adorable quite old man who died soon after --!--.) With the earnestness of a backward young girl I asked him what he saw in Traviata and Manon which he conducted so gorgeously. He said and I wrote it down, “Vous devez travailler pour trouver la musique surtout là où il n’y en a pas”. He had played among the violas at the Comique for Massenet so he knew what he was talking about.

          I AM Rosanna (so she has an Italian edge on her high notes, big whoop!)

          Well, really, I am NOT Rosanna. She was a beauty and as such married a rich man and retired to luxury in Switzerland at 35 to escape the Red Brigades who killed her friend Aldo Moro as she told me near Lago Maggiore when I ambushed (I mean met) her in 1981. I am just an old ragged widder woman…

          AND that recording has Warren in good form and the divine Valetti — so it didn’t last. Just ask Gulatier Malde and Henry Holland how long success and beauty last — oh wait. They never had any.

          If one wants to see Rosanna one MUST see the Naples Rondine, a well managed telecast of a live production at the San Carlo. She is heaven, as is the wonderful Gino Sinimberghi who alas does Prunier while GISMONDO (!!!!!) does Ruggero. That is better seen on the wonderful Hardy transfer (used to be available through VAI might still be) rather than on the high-yallow YouTube version.

          • Porgy Amor

            I do love Carteri’s filmed Alice Ford in that Serafin/Graf Falstaff, in which everyone is great. The film and the soundtrack are not in great condition on VAI’s DVD, and some of the cast members are less comfortable than others with the process, but I’m glad to have it at all. It has about half of the Karajan recording’s cast, but Taddei and Carteri rather than Gobbi and Schwarzkopf, and the big revelation: Scipio Colombo’s Ford. I have not heard or seen the role performed better. It sent me tracking down everything else I could find by him…and most of it was that good.

            • I LUVS you Porgy!!! I WOULD BE Scipio Colombo could I be a MAN!!!! He was not widely known and yet there’s NOT soul like him in the world today. He is wonderful in Tabarro and as Scarpia on that hilarious Westminster Tosca, which is insane but loads of fun and he is thrilling. But that’s it, you see. When I see the scum rave over a non-entity like Lucic, or a fraud like Domingo, I am enraged despite my sweet totally non-confrontational nature. I think of “also rans” like Colombo, Giulio Fioravanti and, Mario Zanasi — the last two I saw — and am astounded there is not a soul on the major circuit anything like them. (There are some Americans who actually fall into the same category, wonderful, yet ignored in favor of horrors by the Met and other big houses). And yes, that is a fantastic Falstaff with the ever amazing Taddei.

            • Luvtennis

              “…my sweet totally nonconfrontational nature…”. I do tend to confuse you with Melanie Hamilton…from time to time… ????

            • Luvtennis

              Love the Carteri Traviata.

            • Ivy Lin

              Carteri also recorded some excerpts of R&J with Gedda.


            • Luvtennis

              I actually think that it is extraordinary how FEW good baritones there are for Germont, Amonasro, Don Carlo, di Luna, Rigoletto et al when you think how rich the pickings used to be.

          • fletcher

            Amazing that you were able to meet Monteux, what a treasured memory that must be. Everything recording of his I’ve heard is revelatory, especially the Traviata and Sacre (although there’s a pretty awkward Berlioz R&J that I avoid). Those long careers are always so fascinating, that someone who was premiering new music with Saint-Saëns and Fauré in the 1890s was conducting in the States in the 1960s. By 1970 of course almost that whole musical generation had passed away (Monteux, Ingelbrecht, Ansermet, Wolff, Munch, and Cluytens all died within a few years of each other).

          • Luvtennis

            What kind of swing…. Wait, never mind.

  • Opera Teen

    Why WOULDN’T young audiences flock to the theaters when we write things like this?!

  • Ivy Lin

    But on a more serious note, I feel like Violetta is one of those roles that attracts excellence in sopranos, and thus why it seems like every new Violetta is hailed as the greatest since the Last Great Violetta. In my opera lifetime (maybe 15 years?), there’s already been several Greatest Violettas Since the Last Great Violetta and I’m privileged enough to have seen many of them live.

    I’ve seen:

    Renee Fleming
    Angela Gheorghiu
    Marina Poplavskaya
    Natalie Dessay
    Diana Damrau
    Marina Rebeka
    Sonya Yoncheva

    I really thought all of them brought something special to the role. Not being Pollyannaish at all.

    • On the one hand, the role is very challenging because of the many technical requirements. On the other, if one can meet all those challenges, the role practically performs itself. Verdi outdid himself in creating a character through the notes he gave Violetta.

      • Ivy Lin

        But this sort of proves my point: the ON article La Cieca is referencing was written in 2012. Since then there’s already been several Greatest Violettas Since the Last Great Violetta. Sonya Yoncheva, Marina Rebeka, Venera Gimadieva have all been hailed as the Greatest Violetta.

        • Ivy: I wasn’t disagreeing with your point,

          • Ivy Lin

            Oh I know. I’m just saying that it’s remarkable how many sopranos have a success with a role that’s not vocally easy to sing.

            • Armerjacquino

              Devil’s advocate: I know we’re told it needs three different singers, etc, but does it really? Is it any harder than, say, Gilda, who has to manage the coloratura and innocence of ‘Caro Nome’ and then dominate the storm trio? It strikes me that what Violetta needs is a lyric with a certain amount of weight to the voice and a facility with coloratura: it could be argued that they are not rare.

            • Luvtennis

              I think Violetta’s scena is more challenging to sing. Violetta must go from elegie to hectic wide ranging outbursts to florid, wide ranging coloratura that must have great rhythmic precision and elan -- and all in 12 mins.

              Also Violetta is onstage for huge swaths of the opera. She must depict the dramatic transition from self-destructive recklessness to a woman in love to a woman condemned to a martyr to a woman scorned and finally to transcendent (or not) death. Quite a journey in 2 hours, especially given the technical hurdles of most of her music.

            • Ivy Lin

              armer, I think Gilda is not the focus of the opera as much as Violetta. It’s not a career-defining role. The focus of that opera is squarely on Rigoletto. Gilda and Duke have great music but a weak Rigoletto is not going to make up for an excellent Gilda.

              OTOH the greatest Alfredo or Germont won’t make up for a weak Violetta. Violetta is the heart of the show — onstage nearly constantly from curtain to curtain. That’s why I say it’s a challenging role that seems to attract success (as opposed to Norma, a challenging role that seems to invite interesting failures).

            • Luvtennis

              Not all are interesting unless you mean in the Chinese surge sense of the word. ????????

            • Ivy Lin

              armer, I think Gilda is not the focus of the opera as much as Violetta. It’s not a career-defining role. The focus of that opera is squarely on Rigoletto. Gilda and Duke have great music but a weak Rigoletto is not going to make up for an excellent Gilda.

              OTOH the greatest Alfredo or Germont won’t make up for a weak Violetta. Violetta is the heart of the show — onstage nearly constantly from curtain to curtain. That’s why I say it’s a challenging role that seems to attract success (as opposed to Norma, a challenging role that seems to invite interesting failures).

            • I don’t know if Violetta needs three voices. But definitely two. It’s true that Gilda has to ride that storm trio, but aside from that, it’s a standard lyric-coloratura role. The real challenge is the stamina needed in the first act (two duets followed by “Caro nome”).

              Violetta has to do a lot of full-voiced singing in the second and third acts. A Gilda can get drowned out in the storm trio and it won’t affect her overall performance too much. A too-light Violetta will fall short for long stretches of the second and third acts.

            • Armerjacquino

              Agreed. But I think I also agree with you about the performability of the role. After all, however much we say it’s hugely difficult, it’s the one role in the Italian rep (along with Mimi) that pretty much everyone performs at one point or another in their career, and as Ivy said it’s a role which a new singer has a huge success in literally every season. If it were quite so fiendish as it’s made out to be, surely neither of those things would be the case.

        • Luvtennis

          Tizziana Fabbicini. Don’t laugh. Pilar Lorengar. Definitely don’t laugh. Valerie Masterson. Pace the dearly departed Vicar.

          • grimoaldo2

            ” Valerie Masterson”
            I restrained myself from putting that in, glad someone else did!
            Ooh, I love you forever now Luvtennis!

            • Luvtennis

              Thank you. Eternal love is cool. Lol! ?? I love that ENO Traviata. The only problem is that the British accents make the opera sound a bit like Masterpiece Theatre or a Merchant & Ivory film. “Upstairs, Downstairs … Whore?” Or better “Downton Brothel?” “Howard’s (Rear) End?” “A Room…By The Hour?”

            • grimoaldo2

              Have you seen this? I have posted it here before. A highlights film of Traviata with Valerie Masterson, made years before the ENO recording you are fond of. This uses a lot of ENO singers, but it does not seem to be made by ENO or in collaboration with them.
              She was soooooooo beautiful and a wonderful actress as well as singer, the only criticism that could be made of her was that she played quite a few “sluttish” roles (Violetta, Manon, Semele) but she was very ladylike and elegant, nothing sluttish about her, but maybe that is the kind of lady of the night who gets the most business

          • “Fabbicini” sound like those “little gorgeous things” in Ab Fab, or some very luxurious little pasta dish.

            • spiderman

              The correct name would be “Tiziana Fabbricini” though …

            • Luvtennis

              I knew that. I even looked it up. Sorry, Tiziana Fabbricini. Lol!!! I hate iPad keyboards.

        • hai lui

          can we add Christine Schäfer -- her 2007 Paris Violetta melted my heart.

          • PCally

            Absolutely. Saw her first one in Berlin (the mussbach production that was replaced last seasons) and it is the finest Violetta I’ve seen live, more reserved then most but also much darker and absolutely devastating in act three. And the single most convincing death I’ve ever seen from a Violetta

    • Degan

      And in many many years, I am sure that only Gheorghiu out of those mentioned will be remembered as one of greatest of all times (along with Callas, Scotto, Cotrubas, Zeani).

      • Williams

        Like it or not Fleming is probably more likely to be remembered in many many years.

        • Cameron Kelsall

          Although Fleming’s interpretation of Violetta is perfectly respectable, I don’t think it will be remembered as one of her great assumptions. I think Gheorghiu’s interpretation--at least the one early in her career and captured for posterity--will stand the test of time. Say what you will about her late-career performances, her Violetta in the mid-late 90s was a true cause for celebration.

          • La Cieca

            Oh I don’t know. It was a huge assumption on her part to think she had anything interesting or important to communicate in this role.

        • La Cieca

          I agree with you. Where indeed would we be without pencillin?

  • grimoaldo2

    ” making cuts both common and not — a verse of “Ah, fors’è lui,” a verse of Alfredo’s cabaletta, Germont’s entire cabaletta, the choruses of Gypsies and matadors, a section of Act II’s concertato finale, a verse of “Addio del passato,” the offstage bacchanale, two sections of “Parigi, o cara.”

    Why?Sorry, I think that is just terrible, vandalism. Disrespectful. The “common” cuts can be defended on the grounds of “tradition”,I suppose (although as Toscanini said “‘tradition’ is the last bad performance”) but I cannot see any reason to cut the chorus of matadors and gypsies,ior the offstage bacchanale. makes me angry to think about it.

    • La Cieca

      Yes especially given the universal acclaim these choruses have received over the years for their musical worth.

    • Rosina Leckermaul

      I yearn for a production that cuts the faux gypsies and matadors. They are tiresome and stop the opera cold. In my early Met opera going days, there was none of Alfredo’s cabaletta, few second verses and certainly none of Germont’s dreary cabaletta.

      • Rob NYNY

        I saw an interesting production in Graz where the ballet was performed by members of the (very young) chorus. It really changed the dynamics of the event to one of rather sad desperation to entertain themselves.

      • grimoaldo2

        The chorus of pretend gypsies and matadors is a divertissment, party music. I love it. Superficial maybe but maybe that is making a point about the superficial pleasure these people enjoy contrasting with the profound heartache of Violetta and Alfredo.The offstage baccahnale is a stroke of geniuis, Violetta lying in bed dying, broke and heartbroken while she hears people enjoying life in the street. Those choruses are not string quartets or piano sonatas, it is theatre music for dramatic purposes.
        Maybe Germont’s cabaletta is dreary on purpose. Alfredo doesn’t pay any attention to it and it has no effect on him.
        Yes, a lot of Verdi’s music has been criticised for banality or triviality, for example almost every banda march in the earlier operas. However I enjoy them,they are fun, I love the music, is that allowed? and I would not agree that they should be cut because they are not good music. They used to cut the “marziale” middle section of the Act Five duet of Carlos and Elisabetta for that reason.
        My opinion is that if you don’t think Verdi knew what he was doing, or composed bad or trivial or banal music you should put on an opera by another composer who you do respect.

        • Armerjacquino

          “My opinion is that if you don’t think Verdi knew what he was doing, or
          composed bad or trivial or banal music you should put on an opera by
          another composer who you do respect.”

          There you have it. Every note written by a great composer is great, every moment of a great opera is perfect. You heard it here first.

          • grimoaldo2

            When Verdi began his career, it was routine for cuts and additions to be made to his and other composers’ operas, singers would interpolate theiir “signature” aria from another opera by another composer, transcribe the music into other keys more comfortable for their voices, on and on. Verdi hated such practices or any kind of “version” of his opera that deviated from what he composed. He boycotted La Scala, where his career began, for twenty-five years after they played Acts Two and Three of “I Due Foscari” in reverse order.
            When he had become very successful and had the power to do so, he made his publisher Ricordi impose fines on any opera company that performed his opera with any cuts, additions or transpostions.
            So we know the composer hated his music being hacked or mucked around with and I think that should be respected.

            • Armerjacquino

              Of course Verdi didn’t like cuts. Nobody likes cuts in their work.

              Your point was that anyone who thinks anything should be cut from a Verdi work should put on something by another composer instead. You’re more than welcome to that opinion, but it’s a fairly sterile one.

              For what it’s worth, I think TRAVIATA is a work of surpassing genius, but that doesn’t stop me thinking all that matador stuff is dull as all hell. This is hardly a controversial opinion. Ever hear people talk about Act III of ROSENKAV? Or the structure of the second half of DON GIOVANNI? Or Basilio’s aria from Act IV of NOZZE? I think it’s a bit adolescent to suggest that a judicial cut here and there means someone doesn’t respect a composer or a work, and should do something else instead.

            • grimoaldo2

              “You’re more than welcome to that opinion”
              So glad to have your permission.
              “a judicial cut here and there”
              I don’t think cutting the gypsies and matadors chorus is “judicial” and I think cutting the offstage bacchanal is a terrible thing to do.

            • Armerjacquino

              Ha! Beautifully done. Take exception to a couple of figures of speech without actually addressing the meat of the discussion. A genuinely elegant swerve.

            • Armerjacquino

              (also, in repeating it, you’ve drawn my attention to a brainwrong on my part: I meant ‘judicious’, obv, not ‘judicial’. I don’t think any judges were involved)

            • I hope she doesn’t mind but I have reason to believe that Grimaldo2 (formerly the admired contributrix, Grimoaldo) is a cisgender female, as opposed to a cisgender bore like unto Mrs. Claggart. She is referred to as “he” above. She is too smart for that.

              I don’t think you can make much of a case in purely musical terms for ANY of La traviata, so it gets a bit arbitrary to say this or that is INFERIOR and should be cut. It’s all of a piece, musically, and from a musical perspective is much better heard complete. Verdi definitely had a long range plan and impressive control of his material. His sense of form, like Donizetti’s is far more sophisticated than people assume simply because of centuries of thoughtless cuts. (I happen to LOVE La traviata, which is not proof that it is fundamentally great music. That’s a mistake opera queens always make.)

              I am interested in those matadors and gypsy girls because they demonstrate the demimonde of Paris as Verdi felt able to put it on an Italian stage. Italy was so conservative he couldn’t even use the title of the Dumas play or novel but instead came up with the odd noun “Traviata”, a female who is lost.

              “Gypsies” and “Matadors” of course had sexual connotations. Barefoot, loosely draped “gypsy” girls slithering around in a way no respectable woman would, signify sex. “Matadors”, bare chested and wearing tight pants are for the males who buy males in Flora’s circle. “Gypsy” girls were often literally girls (underage in our terms). “Matadors” were sexy butch young men (‘tops” as we’d put it). Flora wouldn’t buy these “entertainers” out of the kindness of her heart, she is expecting a cut from what is earned from the transactions that ensue.

              This isn’t an accident. Verdi knew Paris well, loved it and evidently had plenty of no strings attached sex there with cisgender females. Some of the letters left out of the “coppialettere” document his having paid some women. Although his attitude toward homosexuals (the concept really didn’t exist in his time, that word and the identification of a type or identity came later) isn’t known, Paris was a mecca for male on male sex. It was legal under French law. There was only a small section of the police that could be called “vice”.

              There were circles of open same sexers, as well as trade. Most brothels had men or boys available for hire. Nothing is said about it in Traviata and directors usually have the matadors flirt with the women — as though a bunch of whores would buy men as opposed to look for men to buy them, or pay them to find a young girl — and Flora’s friends are all “in the life” as it was once put.

              The men who are her guests buy sex: girl, woman, boy, man, depending on taste. This is the world Violetta inhabits and her situation is hopeless. Since she is no longer viable commercially she has no value or any true friends, all but the doctor desert her. The Baron is her last ditch effort to find someone to keep her while she dies (which is why Peter Konwitschny’s having him and the doctor there prominently from the first is a smart touch. Surely it is his money which is underwriting her party in act one — she’s been out of commission for a long time, hence her throwing an “I’m back” soiree.)

              The ironies are that instead of finding a new circle of johns at her party she finds a provincial boy with no money who convinces her that he loves her, and she ends up supporting him — and that is NOT the whore’s code — in her country cabin (NOT her regal villa as it is made to be in ALL standard productions). And then when his father has manipulated their break up, the only “honest” man at the party is the one who so brutally humiliates and breaks her.

              That is the death blow for Violetta; as we know from the letter she reads on her death bed, she is dying in poverty not very long after. The world of Violetta is both cruel and banal. It is a crushing view of life and Verdi manipulates many of his stories to dramatize it (as he does in Rigoletto and Forza).

              Verdi does differentiate between a “popular” style for the party music and the elevated music of the regular discourse in the opera proper.

              I think (no one asked) that a Konwitschny-Verdi Traviata is reasonable. It is his “theatrical” arrangement of a very familiar, very well documented piece and seen in that light isn’t “wrong”. Giuseppe’s opera, although usually with cuts, wrong tempos, arguably wrongly articulated rhythms and bad singing will continue to be given.

            • Armerjacquino

              Interesting to think of Alfredo’s repudiation as a direct catalyst for Violetta’s downfall. I always assumed that the situation we find her in in Act 3 was a result of (a) being too ill to work and (b) having sold everything as per the discussion with Germont.

              And of course there’s a case to be made (a case you make very well) for the retention of the gypsies and matadors- that’s why they’re not cut in 99% of productions. What I object to is the suggestion earlier in the thread that any cut in anything is arrogant vandalism by someone who ‘thinks they know better’. So glad none of that pearl-clutching exists in theatre, or very little of it: most every production of Shakespeare you see now will be heavily cut and edited without anyone screeching that it’s desecration.

            • Rick

              Thanks, Mrs JC, for these insights about Paris, Matadors and Gypsies, I never thought of it that way.

            • La Cieca

              This is getting very personal. Better surely if we hew more closely to issues than to personalities.

            • Luvtennis

              I get you. And look performers can make choices about cuts even if I might violently disagree with the results. What I don’t like about cuts is that they can distort the dramatic effect built up by the composer. I think Traviata is a shocking work that conceals a very bitter heart under a tale which has been,perhaps inevitably so, sentimentalized. I think foreshortened versions turn the opera into a Puccinian melodrama. I think the dramatic structure of Traviata uncut emphasizes the social milieu -- the banality of it and the formality that conceals the bitter truths -- in a way that makes you realized how Violetta never stood a chance. And that, ironically, unlike the woman on whom she was based, there is no sense that she will be remembered as anything after death other than a dead formerly high-class whore who lived and died in a world that many “respectable” people either don’t or choose (pretend?) not to see. Violetta is the flip side of the noblewomen and princesses and queens who were equally doomed For example, despite the rigamrole of the plot, isn’t it clear that Aida was doomed from the start: to either remain a slave or to find herself sacrificed to her father’s ambition in some other and additional fashion.

              Verdi’s worldview was a pretty damn bleak one. And for very good and honest reasons.

          • Liz.S

            He’s talking about particulars. I don’t find him generalizing things like that. I personally respect his attitude of humbleness trying to dig deeper into the composers’ intentions -- instead of the one “cut it coz I don’t fancy it”

      • Ivy Lin

        I think the chorus of gypsies and matadors is a good contrast to Violetta’s party in Act One. In Act One Violetta’s salon had the veneer of elegance, and the party music reflects that. By Act Three that pretense is gone — it’s a gambling, boozing whorehouse. Alfredo also sees for the first time where Violetta really comes from, and his reaction is believable. He’s jealous, angry, and on top of that, he feels it’s acceptable to treat Violetta like a whore because the surroundings reflect that.