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Image Entertainment presents
La Traviata: Glyndebourne Festival Opera (1988)

"One day you will know what my love confesses. May God save you from your remorse, for even in death I will forever love you."
- Violetta (Marie McLaughlin)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 28, 2003

Stars: Marie McLaughlin, Walter MacNeil, Brent Ellis
Other Stars: Jane Turner, Christopher Thornton-Holmes, Gordon Sandison, John Hall, David Hillman, Enid Hartle, Martyn Harrison, Charles Kerry
Director: Peter Hall

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity)
Run Time: 02h:14m:51s
Release Date: December 16, 2003
UPC: 014381923629
Genre: opera

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A+D+C- F

DVD Review

Alexandre Dumas fils wrote one of the seminal documents of Romanticism in La Dame aux camellias. In this work as in no other was the consumptive so romanticized and his or her doomed life so celebrated. Some decades later, Giuseppe Verdi translated this work loosely to grand opera, and the result is one of the most enduring stage works of all time.

Violetta (Marie McLaughlin) is the titular consumptive, a Parisian courtesan of ill repute. At a party, she attracts the attention of Alfredo Germont (Walter MacNeil), who immediately falls desperately in love with her. Violetta returns the affections and soon is living with Alfredo in his country home. But Alfredo's father (Brent Ellis) has learned that his daughter's fiancé will not marry her unless Alfredo gives up his scandalous relationship. He appeals to Violetta and convinces her that she should put aside her temporary love for the more enduring happiness of the other couple (who never make an appearance onstage). Alfredo knows nothing of this, and acts petulantly and with hostility at a party given by Flora (Jane Turner). Only after he has humiliated her unjustly does Alfredo learn the truth, and then too late.

Like most well-upholstered soprani, McLaughlin seems at first far too healthy to make a proper Violetta, but she convincingly declines, with the aid of substantial makeup and stage business. Her voice is certainly in fine form, with tremendous power and color. Walter MacNeil is hardly a match for her in the first act, coming off rather weakly, but as she declines they make a more appropriate couple. By the last act duet, Null' uomo o demone, their voices fit together well, perfectly balanced and evocative of lost loves. More powerful is Brent Ellis, who makes for a most persuasive elder Germont, despite the sillier things he's asked to do. The chorus performs quite well, particularly at Flora's party where they become agitated with wrath at Alfredo's mistreatment of Violetta.

Although the opera is performed onstage, there does not appear to be an audience, so there's very little distracting rattling and coughing (except of course from Violetta). The production is well staged, with director Peter Hall draping the proceedings with tons of mementi mori. A skull-faced figure is visible at the opening party; a death's head adorns Alfredo's mantel clock; the masked ball at Flora's party is almost entirely made up of skull masks, as are the costumes of the Carnival revelers. The pall over the proceedings is hard to miss.

Verdi's music is of course first rate here; many of his most beloved melodies are contained in this opera, and the opening prelude should be very familiar to anyone with a passing interest in classical music. One of the shorter grand operas, this is also one of Verdi's best.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full frame of the Channel Four television presentation is retained here. Unfortunately, the opera appears to have been shot on videotape. The picture quality is that of a dupey VHS at best, with little fine detail or texture present. Color is nearly all washed out, but considering the subject matter that may have been intentional. Shadow detail is quite plugged up and black levels are rather weak. Not an attractive viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Italianno

Audio Transfer Review: The opera is performed in the original Italian. Although the keepcase bills it as a stereo performance, I'd be hard pressed to verify that it wasn't 2.0 mono instead. The soundstage is quite narrow and there's no significant directionality. There's quite a lot of hiss throughout, deep bass presence is substantially lacking, and the high notes are rather harsh.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 39 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 38 cues and remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:16m:12s

Extras Review: There are absolutely no extras present here, though the disc is well-chaptered. Most astonishing of all, Image has not provided any subtitles. This appears to be an error, for there's an onscreen credit for a subtitler, but they've gone the way of all flesh, just like Violetta. The omission is an egregious mistake on something I consider absolutely essential on any opera disc, which makes it very hard indeed to recommend this disc.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

A fine performance of Verdi's classic opera is hampered by poor videotaping, dodgy audio quality and a lack of subtitling. Only for those already familiar with the opera or who have a libretto at hand.


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