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La Traviata: the Legendary Cov

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Product Details

  • Performer: Callas; Valletti; Zanasi; Covent Garden Opera Chorus & Orchestra; Rescigno
  • Composer: Verdi Giuseppe
  • Audio CD (Feb. 22 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Ica
  • ASIN: B004FFBMI0
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,180 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Maria Callas (1923-1977) needs no introduction as she was quite simply one of the greatest singers of the 20th century. Any recording is of major importance and this Traviata from 1958 given in London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden is no exception. This recording drawn from private tapes has been remastered by Paul Baily using ICA's Ambient Mastering process which has enhanced and widened the sound considerably.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa5b7cf18) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3e6a318) out of 5 stars Murky, over-processed sound - go for the Myto or the IDIS issue Feb. 22 2011
By Ralph Moore - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I was looking forward to hearing this new mastering of the private tape of this live, 1958 performance of "La traviata" at Covent Garden. Unfortunately, it's a disappointment; it seems that ICA Classics have simply shaved off the top frequencies. To take but one example of how this has produced an inferior result, on the other labels, a mild curiosity is still audible. Just after the overture has begun, you can hear Callas warming up quietly in the wings, accompanying the orchestra! Presumably this is something the mike picked up but the audience could not - but the remastering here by ICA has obliterated that charming little vignette - goodness knows how. The Myto issue has more hiss and rumble but you can hear the details and upper frequencies of the performance; this ICA sounds opaque, muddied and veiled - you are listening through a blanket of filtering. Nor is there more ambience, despite their claims to have engineered an improved sense of space; it's still reasonably clean, spacious mono without much distortion. Worried by my findings, I sought corroboration of my impression from independent ears before writing this review and they confirmed what I had heard: this is not a success.

This is a great pity, as there is little doubt in my mind that this performance preserves what I believe it to be by far the best souvenir we have of Callas as Violetta and for once she is properly supported by a distinguished cast. I have enthusiastically reviewed elsewhere this performance as issued on the Myto and IDIS labels; meanwhile, I'd stick with the former as the cheapest and best-sounding option, or you can go with the more expensive IDIS - but both are preferable to this one. I am not by any means against remasterings that clean up frequencies and remove hiss, and am as such a great advocate of Andrew Rose's work for Pristine. I only wish the kind of result he gets could have been achieved here.

The performance itself is a gem and is as close as we shall ever get to the-recording-that-never-was-but-should-have-been. I would add only that it would be dishonest to fail to remark that Callas' top notes are indeed occasionally a bit screamy and piercing - but they pale into insignificance when set against the depth and brilliance of her Violetta. She is in good voice and here worthily partnered; Valletti especially is in perfect voice: youthful, boyish, unaffected and impassioned. He never makes an ugly sound but there is no shortage of commitment to his Alfredo. It is true that Zanasi sounds far too young as Germont - turn to Bruscantini in the Gardelli set with Freni and Bonisolli for an authentic sounding father - and thus lacks a little authority, but he sings honestly and expressively with far more sensitivity than either the detached Sereni or the boorish Bastianini (much as I love both in other roles and recordings). He makes the transition from stiff outrage to fatherly compassion really credible and shows particularly fine control over his soft singing. Trusted friend and ally Rescigno supports Callas unobtrusively with flexible, unhurried tempi and his calm control obviously allowed the diva to feel as comfortable as possible.

There is a bit of coughing, some stage noise and the odd imbalance - but nothing untoward and the audience applause simply heightens the obvious excitement of the evening. Unlike the wretched, crumbly, live Lisbon recording, the prompter is rarely in evidence.

I shall continue to take the Myto set down from my shelves when I want to hear Callas's incomparable characterisation of Violetta in all its lacerating pity and pathos; for me, it renders the Cetra studio recording obsolete. She maintains such poise and control in key moments such as "Dite alla giovane" that it is easy to forgive the odd instance of vocal frailty - of which there are surprisingly few, in any case. For the most part, this is a master-class by the greatest exponent of a notoriously difficult role; her Violetta is an enormously subtle creation and this performance enshrines it.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3d32bc4) out of 5 stars Improved sound to my ear March 2 2011
By L. Petrella - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I happen to now own both the Myto and the ica versions of this recording and after listening to selections from both back-to-back, I much prefer the ica recording. I do believe the sound is improved, and I don't find it "muffled" or "murky" as the other reviewer commented. Perhaps it's all in your personal taste, but it will be the ica recording I will be pulling down from my shelf vs the Myto recording.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3e609f0) out of 5 stars Excellent Recording July 1 2011
By L. Rice - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I previously owned the Melodram recording of this opera and find the ICA version to be much better in sound. To me this was the finest performance of Violetta given by Callas that has been recorded. As John Ardoin in his book The Callas Legacy states: "While this performance uncovers some pronounced vocal problems, Callas' use of her voice to expressive ends amounts to an amalgamation of the best in previous Traviatas. For even though her voice betrays her at times, her intellect and spirit have now conquered the part in a manner that outdistances all others." Have to agree with L. Petrella's review in that I too did not find it "muffled" or "murky" as the other reviewer commented.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3d4c8b8) out of 5 stars La Divina! Feb. 27 2011
By C. Briley - Published on
Format: Audio CD
There is NOTHING like the voice of the divine Maria. This is recording shows her voice in it's prime. WOW! Sempre Libera is nothing short of genius. She said once that for her an opera begins way before the opening night and ends long after the closing curtain--- it is this kind of harbored emotion that you hear in every single note that she sings. Simply said, her voice will never be matched.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3a8d348) out of 5 stars A haunting Callas at her best. Oct. 16 2014
By Joseph A. Palumbo, Jr. - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Callas as Violetta. What is there to compare to it? I acquired each and every recording of this opera with Maria as Violetta as they came to light. I have always favored the 1955 La Scala performance with DiSefano conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini. Although this performance from Covent Garden has been in my collection for some time, I just gave it another hearing and am completely devasted by Maria's characterization. Whle most sopranos who essay the role can manage Verdi's coloratura with charm in the first act, it is the second act that requires a sublime artisit to capture your intellect and emotion. And overwhelmingly Callas does just that! Just listen to her reply to Germont "E vero, e vero!" it breaks your heart. Or, thereafter, her extended tone and expression that begins "Dite alla giovane." Callas' magic is all there. There are countless other instances, some fleeting, some extended that flesh out this portrayal. In sum, just the most perfect characterization of Violetta that exists on disc.

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