VERDI La Traviata / Kleiber 4777115

Kleiber, the great Berlin-born conductor, finds a happy medium in his splendid "Traviata," with Ileana Cotrubas as Violetta and Plácido Domingo as Alfredo, both superb. His tempo for "Un dì felice" has a gentle gait, a bit slower than Toscanini¿s. The restraint allows the singers a little more room to stretch and bend the lines. As the voices blend during the final phrases, they sing with delectable pianissimo tenderness, especially Mr. Domingo¿s.

Our favorite recording, from Deutsche Grammophon, has a superb cast, that includes Romanian soprano Ileana Cotrubas as an incredibly touching Violetta, Plácido Domingo as Alfredo and Sherrill Milnes as Germont. Carlos Kleiber and the Bavarian State Opera orchestra stir up the passions as few others have on disc.

[Alan Blyth, Gramophone, November 1977]: "Cotrubas's peculiarly plaintive, vibrating timbre and highly individual nuances seem to me perfectly fitted to the part. To those she here adds a sense of involvement and of spontaneity that suggests a live portrayal more palpably than any other on disc. In Act 2, if she does not have you close to tears, you must have a hard heart indeed . . . Kleiber gives the score a Toscanini-like sense of dramatic purpose and impending doom, without being quite as strict with his singers . . . I have no hesitation in recommending this brand-new DG set, which is easily the most warmly recorded of any" . . . Richard Fairman: Cotrubas was the first Violetta I saw in the theatre, at least singing in Italian, and I don't think I have ever seen a better one. As for Carlos Kleiber, he was a god among conductors for me and I didn't miss one of his appearances in London. Put the two together, with Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes in attendance, and the result has to be a recording of high distinction . . . In Kleiber's hands the opera is constantly alive and once he has settled into a certain mood -- the slow, lyrical passages are heavenly -- the sense of expression tingling to the touch is as intoxicating as ever . . . I totally love this Violetta, unbearably tender in "Dite alla giovine", the tears clearly in her voice as she writes her letter to Alfredo. Most sopranos since her have felt too cool by comparison . . . Hugo Shirley: There's an awful lot of quality on show . . . [Kleiber] is superb: fresh and vibrant, detailed but never fussy, heartfelt but never indulgent . . . Cotrubas manages to create a real sense of strength of character through clever acting with the voice, so that you don't feel short-changed at the bigger moments, like "Amami, Alfredo". She also, of course, sings exquisitely in the more intimate passages . . . this set's probably still difficult to beat when it comes to studio recordings in (good) stereo sound, and it's a 'classic' in its own right.

Enregistrement avec un très bel équilibre spectral, une bonne définition et une grande dynamique. Voix intégrées avec naturel . . . Fêtons la dignement, et apprécions la qualité du transfert, supérieure, comme souvent dans la collection "Originals", à celle des premiers CD parus.

. . . une vision de chef, fulgurante, dont le génie pousse vers la transcendance les trois protagonistes.

. . . aucun ne m'est plus précieux que "La Traviata" de Carlos Kleiber, avec Ileana Cotrubas . . . On sent le magnétisme qu'il exerce sur ses interprètes à chaque phrase, à chaque mot. Je vais peut-être paraître vieux jeu, mais l'opéra italien est, plus que tout autre, une affaire de chef! Il est le centre de gravité du drame, son architecte; les transitions de tempo, les nuances et les accents du phrasé seront sublimés par de grands chanteurs, mais ne peuvent exister sans ce geste originel. En dépit des différences énormes entre leurs tempéraments et leurs esthétiques, Kleiber est selon moi celui qui a le mieux retenu la lecon de Toscanini quant à l'impératif d'un tel contrôle.