• La Traviata: They were Violetta - the 1940s



    Magda Olivero

    Olivero was preparing the role with Maestro Gerussi, when Maestro Serafin called her, and explained that she was in an ideal position to give the difficult romanza that closes Act 1, its proper due. The coloratura is not an end in itself, is just a way to show Violetta's astonishment, being trapped by love for the first time in her life. "Am I crazy?, Am I crazy?"... Olivero fully understood Serafin's indications and with a voice not conventionally beautiful, with her 'vibrato stretto' trademark, but also with a sure technique, a superb phrasing and a wonderful feeling she provides a true picture of Violetta.

    In her first Violettas, Olivero inserted also a high note (a D-flat 5, attacked in pianissimo) at the end of first romanza, not written by Verdi, that was very celebrated. However, vocal histrionics apart, perhaps her best achievements in the role are in her later years, when as a veteran soprano she was no longer able to reach that note, but her understanding of Violetta was deeper, and she completed some memorable act 2 and act 3 performances.

    E strano...Sempre libera - Olivero, 1940

    E strano...Sempre libera - Olivero, 1964

    Madamigella Valery - Olivero with Aldo Protti, 1967

    Addio del passato - Olivero, 1956



    Eleanor Steber

    Beautiful and powerful voice, best suited to the second and third act, than to the first. We can justly praise her legato, her warm and expressive dying Violetta, her ability to colour her phrasing according to the dramatic situation (always the trademark of the true vocal actress), especially in the duet with Giorgio. She just needed a little bit more of intensity to be one of the finest Violettas in record.

    E strano - Steber, 1949

    Ah! Dite alla giovine - Steber with Robert Merrill, 1949

    Addio del Passato - Steber, 1949




    Bidu Sayão

    One of the MET stars between the 1930s and 1950s. Hers was not a big voice, but she always played her best cards: sweetness, expresiveness, the beauty of her timbre... But she was not a great Violetta:

    È strano! - Sayão, 1943

    Madamigella Valery - Sayão with Leonard Warren, 1943

    Finale - Sayão with Leonard Warren and Charles Kullmann, 1943




    Licia Albanese

    She sung more Traviatas in the MET than any other soprano, and her Violetta was very popular. To get a real Violetta, we need her to be hectic in Act 1, a woman in love, then rejected, in Act 2, and a tragical moribund in Act 3. However, Ms. Albanese is bumpy, instead of hectic, and she tried to convey the tragedy using sobs and melodrama, but not reaching the mark as a vocal actress.

    E strano - Albanese, 1946 (dress rehearsal, conducted by Arturo Toscanini

    Dite alla giovine - Albanese with Robert Merrill, 1946

    Finale - Albanese with Giacinto Prandelli and Ettore Bastianini, 1955


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