Verdi: La Traviata / Sills, Gedda, Panerai; Ceccato
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Customer Reviews:

  • Touching Traviata
    ABOUT THE ALBUM: Verdi (La Traviata): Beverly Sills, soprano (Violetta) Nicolai Gedda, tenor (Alfredo), Rolando Panerai, baritone (Germont), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor Aldo Ceccato; released as an LP by EMI in 1972, re-released as a CD by EMI, 1988 and 1997.

    When this Traviata was made in the early 1970's, Beverly Sills was already an established opera singer at the New York City Opera where she reigned supreme and had not yet made her long-delayed debut at the Metropolitan Opera owing to Rudolf Bing refusing to hire her because he just didn't like her "openly American attitudes". This recording finds her in excellent vocal shape(she had been doing lyric coloratura roles such as Lucia and the heroines of Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman) and her voice had not yet been damaged by singing the heavier bel canto roles of Queen Elisabeth I in "Devereaux" and Bellini's Norma. So this Violetta is one that shows off the true talent of this now deceased opera star(died in July 2007). Quite frankly, this is her best performance on any recording she made. Beverly Sills' Violetta is very moving and she will bring a tear to your eye in the Death Scene as well as make you want to dance in the festive and bouncy Act 1 Party, move you with her nobility and despair in Act 2. Throughout the opera, Sills demonstrates her talent for acting as well as singing with terrific flair. It's an exciting and poignant Violetta, if vocally impure. Sills never possessed a big Italian voice, being brought up in America, and her gift was that of the most renowned coloratura voice, not a dramatic voice, but she paved the way for non-dramatic, lyric singers also born in the States like Renee Fleming, Carol Vaness and Ruth Ann Swenson. Maria Callas owned the role until Anna Moffo came along, but up until that time, many favored a feisty and big voice, a fighter not a frail creature for Violeta. I think it's obvious that Verdi wrote her to be frail, like Puccini did with Mimi in La Boheme. A strong Violeta is unnatural. At the time, only Joan Sutherland rivaled Sills, and her portrayal of Violetta (twice, the more famous version being with Pavarotti) is too long, mannered and too artificial. Sills conveys emotion and no-nonsense sensitivity to her portrayal of Violetta, and I am always satified with this version, eventhough I have heard what critics and opera fans consider the superior Traviatas of Maria Callas, Renata Scotto, Anna Moffo and Angela Gheorghiu. For Anna Moffo, the role was as easy as breathing. But many singers have struggled with Violetta. Caballe experimented with the part as did Mirella Freni. But Sills had known the role since her earliest days as a singer and it was her first real starring role. She sang Violetta many many times, being very familiar with the role. Beverly Sills in a class all her own and she pulls out all the stops. For instance, you can really tell the difference between the way she sings the care-free arias in Act 1 like "Sempre Libera" which she tops with the always sought after high hote. True, in this party scene, she sounds more like she's singing operetta (like she's Rosalinda in Fleidermaus) but it's still a right-on-target portrayal. By the time she's in the middle of the duets with Panerai's Germont, she is already a changed woman. Her voice is aptly able to portray suffering as in "Addio Del Passato". She lightens her voice and makes it sound as if she's ill in the last act, but has enough energy to produce the dramatic outbursts like "Morir Si prezo giovine". Despite whatever flaws critics noted, Sills makes a fabulous Violetta.

    Nicolai Gedda is another reason to own this Traviata. His Alfredo is brilliant. He is older but he is a very elegant and heroic Alfredo, with a fit voice able to take on the lyric "De mie bollenti spiriti" and the usually ommitted tour de force aria "O mio rimorso". He is passionate and his voice is dark and masculine, a very fitting counterpart to Sill's femininity. This is one Alfredo that I always enjoy hearing. Gedda took care of his great voice and sang many roles during a long career. He looked good and sang great and everything he sings here is of grand quality.

    Rolando Panerai is to my ears the best Germont. He portrays with ease the fatherly, noble and patriarchal figure that caused a threat to Violetta and Alfredo's romance. Panerai is not too severe in his phrasing and yet has power and warmth. His "Di Provinzia il mar" is very moving and his final scene with Violetta is a poignant moment. In fact, during that scene in which he, Alfredo, Annina the maid and Dr. Grenvil sing in an ensemble as Violetta is dying, I consider a moment in which each singer is doing the best interpretation of this moment, but particularly Germont who is ridden with guilt. Panerai was also a veteran singer of opera by this point but it hardly shows.

    Aldo Ceccato, an Italian conductor, leads the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a very expressive, sensitive reading of the score. It makes me want to dance in the party scenes, has enough light to keep this opera from being too grand (it is Verdi's smallest-scale opera)but yet lingers in the more poignant scenes of real drama such as the Germont-Violetta duets, the end of Act 2 and the entire final portions. Ceccato resurrected the original score without any cuts. We hear "O Mio Rimorso" a fiery cabaletta for Alfredo, the second repetition in "Addio Del Passato" and even a caballeta after Germont's "Di Provenzia". This is a long and yet very satisfying Traviata. Any fan of the opera should own this, even if you own the Callas Traviata, the Scotto Traviata or other ones. The reviews speak for themselves. This is a very touching Traviata with a cast of great singers and a fine conductor. What more can you look for in Traviata ? ...more info
  • Classic Verdi from the Classic Soprano
    I searched for a definitive recording of La Traviata and was delighted to find this CD from the 70s of the great Beverly Sills. I was not disappointed in her artistry or in the quality of the supporting cast. A must-have in any opera-lover's collection. ...more info
  • Simply The Best(s) Golden Classic Sills of 1970's!
    Violetta is a workhouse of an operatic role, and many many Soprani have tried to cut their teeth on it, tackled it, worked it to death, or flogged the dead horse: Stratas, Callas (forgive me, La Divina, this role for you was *no* Stupenda Asollutta!) Songbird-"mushmouth" Dame Joan Sutherland (but who can hear her actual words?)....THE Lovely Canary Sine-qua-Non: Ms. Sills is at her best here, forget the other characters, if you can, they acquit themselves anyway...but perceive PERT, PETITE, PURE PERFECT VOCAL LINES of La Sills! Since the Coloratura Voice is the *first to go* age-wise in singers, because of vocal strains on the high, light-timbred Coloratura "canary-songbird" type sure *any* Sills you buy is from no later than this recording, best earlier other works and perfs of her with the New York City Opera or other venues.

    Violetta's Signature scena/aria in this Traviata role is of course the renowned "Sempre Libera" ...and if it gives you no chills anywhere, you haven't got a pulse! She trips and skips through all the potentially deathly multiple flowery runs of notes (melismas) like they were child's play (and this is an aria she learned as a a child, actually, from Mum's old 78s)

    Acoustically, The lovely echo in the church used for this recording adds to the plus of Sills' voice in Her Prime... *NOBODY* had, nor will ever have seemingly: the agile, light, yet emotionally evocative and gutsy performing brilliance of our recently deceased American-Prize Ms. Sills... if someone doesn't name a Rose Cultivar after her, someone's head will role! ...and since her passing, Ms. Sills recordings are certain to rise in value, in any condition! I strongly recommend you also buy her "Anything in French" discography: the Donizetti *Three Queens*, and more... Beverly Sills, now that you're soloing with The Angels, let us worship and bow down (well, maybe not that far...but close!) Buy Sills! Buy *ANY* Sills, for collector's value, alone, if for no other reason...butthen listen and be transported and transformed!!!...more info
  • Sills' Violetta
    There is no point in arguing that the voice of Beverly Sills is smaller than Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland; this is a fact that we all know. In spite of this, this recording of Traviata stands out because Sills combines the coloratura graces of Sutherland with the creativity and crystal clear diction of Callas. Sills can definitely keep her own and do so in this recording.

    Nicola Gedda as Alfredo is splendid, and Panerai as Papa Germont is fantastic as well. The conducting is swift and precise; the sound is surpasses many recordings- including the Netrebko Traviata from Salzburg....more info
  • Is there ANY DOUBT how pleased Verdi would be?
    I have great regard for this recording of Beverly Sills in perhaps her real signature role. Lots of people would tell you "Manon", certainly, or "Lucia", or Elisabeth in "Devereauz", or perhaps "Baby Doe". I happen to simply love "Baby Doe", and, it was her truly great first big role. But, if one really wants to get down to the simple facts, Violetta, truly, was her best part, after "Manon".

    I saw the lady on two occasions. Both times at the NYC Opera, once as Elisabeth in "Roberta Devereaux", and once in "La Traviata". Truthfully, I remember her most clearly as Elisabeth...but, I was fairly young, and look at the difference in the parts! Violetta is young, beautiful, and etc, as are most sporano parts, the same for .....Elisabeth was a walking veneration, in stately costume, with a face that was, simply, unforgettable! The only other character I remember as clearly is Norman Treigle as "Mefistofele"....

    This Traviata certainly holds its own against the competition. I turn to it frequently, and always marvel, even after all these years, at Sills' creamy, silvery voice. It is unfortunate that she somehow never really made it to "front rank" in the eye of the general public. I suppose, as the NYC Opera was generally considered "second rank" to the Met, singers at the NYCO were also somewhat looked upon in the same way! How sad is that?? Then, by the time she did make it to the Met, her days of Violetta were over, and she sang somewhat heavier roles, for older characters.

    Luckily for us, there is the recorded medium, which we can turn to time after time, and enjoy whenever we wish to. Admittedly, this is "second best" to a live performance, but at least we have the vocal interpretation, and luckily, I believe, there are some video performances also, so for those, we can see the Lovely Lady. Her recorded opera library, while not dense, is full of spectacular performances, and also some unusual roles...we need to be thankful for that.

    While my favorite "La Traviata" will always be the Moffo/Tucker/Merrill under Prevetalli, there is, certainly, enough room for many interpretations. This is, then, one of the better ones to have as a viable "top tier" alternative. Maestro Ceccato is certainly famaliar enough with Verdi's score through years of performances to turn in a richly commendable performance. Nicolai Gedda....well, like Richard Tucker, somehow, with all his talent, and great singing voice, never really comes through to me as a three-dimensional character. (Again, as with Tucker, I never saw him "live", and this may make a world of difference...visual can be a great aid to characterization.) Rolando Panerai is very very good as Georgio Germont (but Robert Merrill will always hold this role for me), and his "Di Provenaz il mar" is really fine. Act III is stupendous, and of course, Act IV will break your heart as only Callas or Moffo could do. Or, as we so well know, Caballe, in the theatre could certainly do (I do not rank her RCA recording with Callas/Moffo efforts).

    So, with all my ramblings, here, the final statement from me regarding this recording is this:

    Certainly top tier, ranking with Callas and Moffo, great conducted interpretation, Panerai is very good, Gedda, too, is fine, but not my ideal. The secondary roles are all fine, here, too. So, do not hesitate to add this recording to your collection, either as a first recording, or as a secondary addition. This is Sills at her finest. ~operabruin

    ...more info
  • Best "Traviata" available
    I was really astonished by this recording. It was my first recording of this Verdi opera. What a great introduction to Verdi's masterpiece! First of all, Beverly Sills must be mentioned. I am a huge fan of this exceptional soprano. She surprises me in each new recording of hers that I have listened to. I own her "Lucia di Lammermoor", "Anna Bolena", "Maria Stuarda", "Roberto Devereux", "Giulio Cesare", "The Ballad of Baby Doe" and, of course, this recording of "La Traviata". Sills is amazing as Violetta. She owns this role like she does Lucia (no offense to Joan), Cleopatra, Manon, and Baby Doe. She is positively bubbly in the beginning of the first act and only gets better from there. Her Act One aria is a tour de force of soprano singing. She injects so much feeling into that aria that I was blown away! Her "Sempre libera" is nothing short of amazing! Trills, scales, and runs are done impeccably! Her trills especially surprised me. She has a better trill than Sutherland does! It is so fast and so marvelous! Her confrontation with Alfredo's father, played by the always excellent baritone Rolando Panerai, is awesome! She changes emotions with surprising ease and is very believable. She is so convincing that it is scary. The second party scene is also done well. Her "Teneste la promessa" sounds distressingly like Renata Scotto's masterful reading, but be assured that Sills never imitated other sopranos. She was her own performer and had enough brains and talent not to have depended on imitation of others. I especially liked the tuneful choruses that Verdi put in the opera to lighten the mood. Verdi was great at writing tuneful choruses. Check out the "Anvil Chorus" from "Il Trovatore". I bet you will recognize it from commercials, TV shows, and films. Her "Addio del passato" is masterfully rendered. Her glowing legato line is supported by her excellent dramatic commitment to this difficult aria. Her reunion with Alfredo is full of believable joy. This makes her death scene all the more heart-wrenching. She really earns her mark on this role with her chillingly real performance of the death scene. On to the Alfredo of Nicolai Gedda. This always stylish and musical tenor is not the best Alfredo on recordings. He has excellent Italian, but he is out of his element in Italian opera. He just doesn't have the Italianate ring to his voice. Also, his musical and dramatic refinement keep him from acting with abandon. There are far more passionate Alfredos out there. He really only convinces me in the scenes with his father and when he shouts Violetta's name when she dies. Even so, he sings his first act aria very well. The cabaletta is done magnificently with a stupendous high C at the end. As Alfredo's father, Rolando Panerai sings mellifluously and is always in character. He tackles the tough coloratura in his lively cabaletta very well. He is a very great artist indeed. The conductor is, for the most part, great. He tends to slow down Violetta's Act One aria, but this can be forgiven. He also slows down that aria's cabaletta. Sills shows us why she is such a great artist by taking advantage of the slow tempo. She uses the extra time she is given to cram as much emotion as is humanly possible into that aria.

    If you want a recording of Verdi's immortal masterpiece, get this recording now! You will not be disappointed. Simply put, no finer recording of this opera exists. Violetta was one of Beverly Sills greatest roles. Therefore, you cannot go wrong with this recording....more info

  • You've Tried The Rest, Now Try The Best!!...
    My fellow reviewers have passed good judgement on this particular recording of Verdi's La Traviata and agree that there is no finer interpretation. One can always make an argument. There is always the Maria Callas crowd, the hype surrounding her 50's performance in which she moved audiences to tears in her acting abilities as well as in-depth emotional characterization of Violetta Valery. There is no questioning Callas' dramatic prowess. She could have made a great Hollywood actress had she not prefered singing opera
    There is also the pleasure listeners say they feel when they hear Anna Moffo, Joan Sutherland, Ileana Contrubas, Renee Fleming and most recently, Angela Gheorghiu.

    Violetta, is of course, the hottest and most standard soprano role to perform. What soprano would not want to debut at the Met as Violetta Valery ? But PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE NEXT ANALYSIS (eventhough you are likely to suspect that I'm an avid Beverly Sills fan). Beverly Sills sang the role in the same time frame as when her contemporary Maria Callas was singing this (50's, 60's) and is genuinely at paar with Callas in acting talent and artistic inflection. No other soprano knew the role better than Beverly Sills. She performed the role 54 times in the course of 63 days, each performance a knock-out crowd pleaser. Her portrayal of Violetta in this recording in 1971 has her at the zenith of her career (there is also another recording with the same conductor and cast available through Black Dog Opera Library in the format of book with illustrations and two cd's).

    Next to Nicolai Gedda's passionate, but not stuffy, sophisticated portrayal as Alfredo (second only in greatness to Placido Domingo ) she sings masterfully in the Brindisi and duet "Un Di Felice". Note how she has an operetta heroine's charm and bubbly festive persona in all her lines in Act 1, including "Lo voglio! Al Piacer M'Affido Io Sol con tal farmaco i mali sopir !" how lyrical and melodiously (like a French singer would) she sings "A Fors E Lui" and how she masters the coloratura caballeta Sempre Libera, which she embellishes and ends with a dramatic high E flat note over a high C. In the long scene of her duet with Germont, she is moving as a woman in love and willing to sacrifice for that love, touching in her vocal lines in the aria "Ditte A La Giovine", and dramatic in "Morro! La Mia Memoria". Finally, in the last two acts, she is convincing as a woman who is genuinely impassioned and frightened for the plight of Alfredo during the party scene, particularily striking in the confrontation with Alfredo: Invitato A Qui Seguirmi !Her voice raises as beautifully as a fountain in her lines Alfredo, Alfredo" in " Di Questo Core Tu Non Conosce", which follows a great closing ensemble.

    Finally, in the last act, she is fragile, deteriorating and fighting for her last breath to live happily with Alfredo and above all, a great dying scene. She sings Addio Del Passato like no other. Beverly Sills claims she would always practice this aria to keep her bel canto legato lines in good condition. The duet Parigi O Cara is well made and her "Gran Dio Morir Si Giovine " sensational. Her dying scene, from her lines "Ascolta, Amado Alfredo" to the final exclamation "O gioa!" are unsurpassed by any modern soprano to this day. Roland Panerai is unquestionably the best Germont and Aldo Ceccato orchestrates a poignant score, embellished with a European elegance and dramatic intensity when required. The chorus, led by John Alldis, is impressive, especially in "Si Ridesta in ciel L'Aurora", although the Jon Alldyis choir sounds remarkable in every opera they do. Buy this La Traviata please! It's not very talked about. That's why it's so great....more info

  • A Perfect Traviata
    There are many fine Traviatas out there (Callas, 2 by Sutherland, Caballe, Cortubas, and the like), but I feel this one is the best of the lot. Beverly Sills is extremely fresh voiced here and delivers her arias with freshness and aplomb. Her "Sempre Libera " is simply breathtaking. Her colleagues here are also unsurpassed. Nicolai Gedda is magnigicent here,offering just the right amout of lyricism and passion to the role of Alfredo (even demonstrating an incredible High C at the end of his caballetta "Oh mio rimorso! Oh, infamia!"). Gedda is my favorite of any of the recorded Alfredos. Rolando Panerai is probably the finest Germont the elder I have ever heard. His "Di Provenza Il Mar, Il Suol" will literally tear at your heartstrings and this reviewer has never heard a finer rendition since the American Baritone Lawrence Tibbett. Aldo Ceccato is the conductor here and does a very fine job indeed. If you want to hear La Traviata the way it should be performed, treat yourself to this recording....more info
  • Sills extraordinary as Violetta!
    Beverly Sills was one of the the best singing actresses ever! She possessed a beautiful, lyrical coloratura voice, and her singing in this La Traviata is pure perfection! There's that lyrical sounding innocence in her voice that perfectly fit the role of Violetta. Outstanding coloratura-like vocal technique also contributes much to the vulnerable character. Her voice is just so beautiful to listen to! Although her voice has lost some of its strength in the latter years of her career, it is still strong in this recording made in 1971. Her acting ability with the voice (and also most notably on stage) was something out of this world. Next to Callas, Sills was THE ultimate singing actress. Sills sounded jubilant in all the happier scenes (including in the brindisi, which I would say is the happiest scene in the entire of this tragic opera), and very much sad and weepy in the melancholic scenes. Boy, what emotions! The rest of the cast is top notch as well. Nicolai Gedda was in glorious form for this recording and was a romantic Alfredo and Rolando Panerai sang Germont very convincingly (he was also an excellent Marcello in the 1972 'La Boheme' Decca recording with Freni and Pavarotti). There is a current hype around Gheorgiu's interpretation, but that doesn't even come close, for this one is most certainly THE BEST Traviata I've ever heard! I highly, highly recommend it!...more info
  • Tutto e finito
    This disc is really marvelous. Though Sills may not be in her absolute best voice, she is completely the fallen courtesan for whom Verdi writes. Her "addio del passato" is heart breaking and her act I coloratura is sparkling, though Ceccato slows up some of the fun/fast moments such as Sempre Libera and the Brindisi.
    Gedda is in very good voice throughout and since with excellent sense of line and honeyed tone. He surely, along with Stuart Burrows, has one of the most creamily beautiful voices of the 20th century.
    Panerai is, as usual, excellent. He sings with rich tone and sounds every bit the disapproving father.
    Very good!...more info
  • The Greatest La Traviata
    Verdi's classic opera about passion and romance, and a dying courtesan in the opulence of Paris. There are so many recordings, La Traviata being one of the most popular operas in the entire repotaire. May opinions differ and each are valuable. Most argue that Maria Callas, her smashing 1955 live recording at the Met made headlines, is the finest Violetta. Her voice is full raw passion, lyrical beauty and grace. There is also Contrubas, whose gentility and freshness adds a new spirit to the role and Montserat Caballere, who has a great voice and countless of other sopranos who have done Violetta, among them Teresa Stratas who sang the role for the Zefferli film opposite Domingo.But Sillss has a powerful voice, her coloratura adding a positive effect on the whole performance. Opposite Nicolai Gedda as Alfredo, she does a marvelous job. The E flat note over a high C at the end of "Sempre Libera" is terrific. She goes on to sing beautifully in the duet with baritone Panerai(Alfredo's father Giorgio) and her "Grand Dio Morir Si Giovine " "Addio Del Passato" is breathtaking. The death scene is moving and powerful. Aldo Ceccato is a marvelous conductor, whose attention to detail is remarkable, making this recording a real gem. Quite frankly there is no better recording out there. Before you try Callas and the other hear this one out. The story is beautiful- Alfredo falls for the beautiful courtesan who sacrifices being with him for the honor of his family. The highlights: the great Brindisi, the Ensemble finale in Act 2 and the Death Scene. A Must Have....more info
  • Underrated Traviata
    This is an excellent recording of La Traviata. Beverly Sills's
    silvery voice is under perfect control and through technique,
    musicianship, intelligence, she paints a very touching portrait
    of the doomed courtesan. Nicolai Gedda is virtually the ideal
    Alfredo - elegant and refined - very much the young man from
    a good family - he is also capable of passion at the very end
    of the opera his scream of Violetta's name as she dies is quite
    gripping. Rolando Panerai is an imposing Germont - he and Gedda
    form a very plausible father/son. Fine contribution from chorus
    and orchestra and good sound.

    ...more info
  • Perfection
    In my opinion, Sills is a remarkable vocal artist. I find her voice quite beautiful, yet with a reedy edge to it that gives her vocal instrument an incredible ability to express many colors of emotion (much like Callas). She also has brought a quality of intelligence, warmth and vulnerability to the character of Violetta that I haven't heard or seen in others, and I own 5 different recordings of La Traviata, and have seen 3 productions of it. So if you are looking for advice on what recording of this incredible opera to get from someone who has listened to many different recorded and live productions of it, my advice is to BUY THIS ONE! It's the best in my opinion regardless of its great bargin price....more info
  • She's no Callas--and I mean that as a compliment.
    I love Callas, but sometimes I just don't feel like being a masochist. In roles that fall within her more limited range, Beverly Sills is every bit as penetrating an actress as Callas, with a security in the top notes that is among the most dazzling on record. Sills' Violetta lives and dies with infinite dignity, nobility, and yearning. Her death is credible and tragic, with the voice used to SUGGEST disease rather than falling victim to it. I hope, as the Callas re-issue frenzy peaks, that Sills will soon be represented more completely on disc.

    As Alfredo, Gedda is also immensely appealing, but with a sweetness of tone that may be just a little too generous for the character. It was perfect for his glorious recording of Manon, also with Sills. Panerai's voice is impressive in tone, but pretty inflexible in characterization. It grew on me, however, as a foil to Sills' Violetta.

    This is a wonderful recording and a great performance....more info

  • In praise of a great artist.
    Beverly Sills must be considered one of the great singing actresses of our time. This recording preserves one of her greatest roles. Every emotion comes through with powerhouse effect. The beauty and clarity of her voice is thrilling. Brava, Sills....more info