• La Traviata: They were Violetta - the 1960s

    Joan Sutherland

    Violetta was one the preferred roles for Joan Sutherland, that in the first act, of course, was perfectly at home. She was also one to push for the complete score to be sung, but adding the 'traditional' not written top notes in "Sempre libera" or "O mio rimorso". Her recording in the 1960s is a very good one. Apart from a wonderful Act 1, she is convincingly sad, but defiant, in Act 2, though Violetta's dying moments in Act 3 are missing some drama. Her Italian diction could be clearer, yes, but who cares listening to this vocal genius singing that high E-flat!.

    Sempre libera - Sutherland, 1965

    Dite alla giovine - Sutherland with Robert Merril, 1963

    Addio del passato - Sutherland, 1960

    Anna Moffo

    Perhaps the loveliest soprano ever, Anna Moffo was also a gifted singer, and a good actress. She has a quite good Italian diction, and an exquisite timbre. It was impossible not to love her while impersonating Violetta, however... her voice was rather small, and sometimes could have problems to project it and fill the theater, while her expressive coloring was limited. For all the sweetness of the voice, when strained, she can produce also some ugly sounds. Not one of the best Violettas, but a nice Violetta nonetheless.

    Un di felice - Moffo with Nicolai Gedda, 1962

    Sempre Libera - Moffo, 1967

    Gran dio morir si giovine - Moffo with Franco Bonisolli, 1968

    Renata Scotto

    Always an exciting artist to watch, Violetta was one of the best roles of Renata Scotto. She kept the role in her repertoire for almost two decades, and her insigths are rightly celebrated. Not everyone will love her voice: sometimes the tone hardens very noticeably, sometimes the notes, instead of written in the pentagram, seem to be immersed in probability clouds, sometimes she visibly strains... but is a great portrait nonetheless. She really means what she sings, we are provided with a small window into the soul of Violetta Valery, and this is a priceless gift for every Opera lover.

    E strano... Ah, fors'è lui... Sempre libera - Scotto, 1962

    Addio del passato - Scotto, 1973

    Parigi o cara - Scotto, con Josep Carreras

    Mirella Freni

    The first public appearance of Mirella Freni, at ten years old, was singing "Sempre Libera", she was very fond of this piece, and of Violetta's role. Unfortunately, it was also one of her greatest disappointments, when she collected a tremendous booing at La Scala, in 1964. Of course, this was not fair. Ms Freni is incapable of bad singing, though, clearly enough, she was no Maria Callas... but, who was?. Her limpid tone, her musical phrasing, her immaculate legato are as present as usual, only in this case they are not enough. They cannot replace the sense that a real depth of characterization is missing.

    Sempre Libera - Freni, 1973

    Addio del passato - Freni, 1973

    Finale - Freni with Luciano Pavarotti, 1965

    Montserrat Caballé

    Talented enough to sing Violetta, and almost any soprano role in the repertoire, Caballé sung Violetta several times during ten years, until the mid seventies. Also, in her recording with Prêtre she refused to sing the traditional, not written, high notes, without fearing criticism. Let's listen to Caballé's opinion:

    "I've sung a very beautiful Traviata in my first years, but I realized that suddenly I was not able to sing the Violetta I've in my mind. When this happen, you need to retire the role. I can still feel Violetta, interpret Violetta... but no longer sing Violetta".

    Well, Caballé's Violetta was beautiful enough, though not the greatest of characterization from a dramatic point of view. Also, in spite of her incredible vocal assets, her 'physique du rol' was not the best one for the young courtesan.

    Libiamo, ne lieti calici - Caballé with Josep Carreras, 1973

    Ah, fors' è lui... Sempre libera - Caballé, 1967

    Addio del passato - Caballé, 1967

    In the 1960s, there were also some very good Violettas, like Rosanna Carteri, Leyla Gencer or Pilar Lorengar.

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