I have heard and seen La Traviata many, many times, but there are two memorable Violettas. By memorable, I mean that vocal skill and acting ability combined to produce a performance that was spellbinding. The first was seeing a young Catherine Malfitano with the Michigan Opera Company. From the first few moments of the party scene to the end of the performance, She WAS the consumptive courtesan who discovered love. The second is Stefania Bonfadelli in this DVD. Because this is an intimate production, with great closeup shots, any flaws in acting would be instantly obvious, but there are none: she is one with her part. Vocally, she may be slightly less gifted than Anna Moffo, Kiri Te Kanawa or Montserrat Caballe, but she is a young woman whose vocal skills should increase. Still, though, she produces a beautifully realized Violetta, that has captivated me, and which has to be experienced to be totally understood. Words can convey only so much.
Scott Piper is great as the young Alfredo. Although he sounds a bit "tight" in the first act, by the time he sings "De' miei bollenti spiriti", he is not only in fine voice, but epidomizes a young man in love. His acting skills are excellent. Both he and Ms. Bonfadelli are young singers and thus bring a high level of believeability to their roles. His father, Georgio Germont, is sung by veteran Verdian Renato Bruson. Time has treated his voice well, and he does an excellent job in capturing the 19th century pater familias; The second act duet with Violetta is simply splendid!
The performance, as noted, is intimate. This is, in large part, due to the fact that it was done in the tiny Teatro Giuseppi Verdi, located in the composer's home town of Busetto. The theatre seats 300 (no typo) and has a stage that is just ten meters deep (TDK recorded "Aida" (q.v.) there, producing an exciting DVD of that great work). The conductor is non other than Placido Domingo, who does a stellar job in keeping a brisk, yet unrushed, tempo. The orchestra, chorus and all minor roles are very well done.
Some minor criticisms do not diminish the wonderful performance: someone should have edited the English subtitles. I have noticed this on other TDK operatic releases, and Amazon should reflect that this IS a TDK release, not one from Naxos. TDK is releasing some great operas on DVD, folks, and at prices that are less than CDs. Those folks deserve the credit for this one!
Finally, I reiterate that opera on DVD is next best to a live performance. Technically (aside from the needed editing) this disc is near perfect. The picture is crisp, and a DTS option exists for the sound for those who want to break a lease or educate the neighbors.
La Traviata is one of the great Verdi operas. It is highly melodic and would be a good entry level opera for folks who are wondering what the fuss is all about. For any lover of Verdi's works, this is a "must have" disc.