This absolutely terrific performance of Verdi's opera La Traviata is a new release of a private recording made in the Royal Opera House Covent Garden on 20th June 1958. It has circulated previously as a pirated disc but now has been released officially for the very first time.
It is the most complete of the recordings of Maria Callas singing Violetta in the opera, and rather than being made in a studio this performance is live. Of course it's mono and we get the odd bump and thump from the stage, together with the variations in volume as the singers move about on stage and the odd bit of coughing from the audience. There is also an audible hiss on the CD but all this hardly matters in one of the finest recordings of La Traviata of the 20th century. The audience periodically interrupts the music with applause and the whole performance just gets better and better.
Callas is in glorious voice in this disc. She is slightly shrieky occasionally on the top notes but has no trouble reaching them and there are very few out of tune moments and the coloratura is wonderfully accurate. Cesare Valletti is a terrific Alfredo and Rescigno takes the whole opera at a steady pace which is well suited to the abilities of the singers, chorus and orchestra. Mario Zanasi as Germont also has a beautiful voice and though he is not quite authoratative enough he sings the music with lovely legato and bel canto.
The Royal Opera House Chorus and Orchestra are in good form and although there is the occasional untidy moment this really doesn't matter.
The real star of the show however is Callas who is at the top of her form here and has no trouble with any of the difficult coloratura passages, letting her voice swell and blossom most beautifully. The final death scene with all its high drama is sung (and spoken) with all of Callas's dramatic flair and the whole operatic evening is an amazing achievement which we are fortunate has been preserved.
Unfortunately the disc is only available from the Amazon.com marketplace second hand sellers, but you can order it direct from www.amazon.co.uk.