Gran Teatro La Fenice

La Traviata

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Details At A Glance

Category Opera Biographies - Cast and Crew
Web Link
Year Released 1993
Running Time 129:08 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (69:46)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection, then Menu
Region 2,3,4,5,6 Director Derek Bailey (Video)
NVC Arts
Warner Vision
Starring Edita Gruberova
Neil Shicoff
Giorgio Zancanaro
Case Super Jewel Case
RPI $39.95 Music Giuseppe Verdi

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio Full Frame
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during credits

Plot Synopsis

    Perhaps it was expecting a little much, but three opera DVDs in five days was certainly pushing the endurance just a little. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good opera but no matter how good, I simply don't think that I can be entirely objective watching the third in five days. So I apologize upfront should I stray from my appointed task here. It is simply that my tastes run more towards the work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart rather than the more serious works of the likes of Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi. Nonetheless, La Traviata is an enjoyable work, if for no other reason than it has one of the best drinking songs ever written in Brindisi: Libiamo, libiamo ne'lieti calici! It is another opera that has been the subject of some great performances over the years. However, in this instance a version recorded a few years ago starring the main cast from this effort is one of the highest rated versions in The Penguin Guide To Compact Discs, so you are reasonably assured that what is on offer here is not too shabby. Moreover, the source of the recording here is important. Written in 1853, La Traviata was first performed at Gran Teatro La Fenice on 6th March, 1853. So this is a work that is at the very core of the repertoire of this hallowed venue, and what a venue! Almost the highlight of the DVD is to see the shots inside this magnificent theatre. Venice is one of the great cities of the world, a truly inspiring place, and this theatre is one of the city's jewels. The way this recording starts gives you a chance to experience some of the magic of Venice, as the prelude to the opera commences over some rather striking night video of what amounts to the trip to the theatre. A most novel and welcome introduction to the opera proper.

    The broad synopsis? Basically lost love - and where would opera be without that little topic? Set in Paris around 1840, the story begins in the house of Violetta Valery, where she is holding a party. Amongst the guests is one Alfredo Germont, who is to put it quite bluntly madly in love with Violetta. So when he is introduced to her, Violetta's usual escort in Baron Douplhol gets just a little jealous. When all the rest of the guests hit the dance floor, Violetta stays away to recover from a dizzy spell, where she is confronted by Alfredo who professes his undying love for her. Since Violetta is a woman who has made a habit of enjoying the company of men in rather non-serious liaisons, she does not know how to react to the words of Alfredo. However, she is taken enough to ask him to return the next day. Act 2 sees the action jumping ahead a few months, with Violetta and Alfredo happily enjoying a relationship in a country home. This idyllic little situation is promptly ruined by the appearance of Alfredo's dear old dad (you can always trust your parents to stuff things up!), who thinks that Alfredo is tossing away the family fortune to keep up this relationship with Violetta. When he discovers that it is actually Violetta who is tossing away her fortune, he concocts a lovely story to implore Violetta to dump Alfredo and let him return to the family. She promptly does this and returns to Paris to attend a party given by Flora. Beside himself with anger, Alfredo follows with the intent of being as vindictive as possible towards Violetta. Lots of nasty things are said and done at Flora's little bash, which sees Alfredo and Violetta completely unreconciled. Act 3 sees the action return to Violetta's bedroom where she is dying, longing for reconciliation with Alfredo. News arrives that Alfredo is coming as he has found out what is dear old dad has done and is determined to rekindle the flames of love. Naturally they do, except it is all a bit late and the usual melodramatic operatic ending is tossed up for our pleasure.

    Okay, by opera standards this is a fairly well-worn road as far as stories go - boy meets girl, girl dumps boy, girl reconciles with boy and girl dies. When you think about it, this is pretty much the same story as that of La Boheme, the previous opera DVD through my player. There really is nothing too distinctive about the story, but at the end of the day this is the sort of stuff that opera fans demanded in 1853 and it probably went over a treat then. This is a surprisingly decent cast, obviously lead by Edita Gruberova, but well supported by Neil Shicoff and Giorgio Zancanaro. However, to my mind the whole opera simply lacks a little spark to make it a really memorable experience, and being the third opera DVD in five days, it simply did not enthral me.

    Nonetheless a decent enough effort that at least looks a lot better than La Boheme!

Transfer Quality


    What a difference ten years makes! Recorded in December, 1992, this actually looks pretty good overall - at least for a recording of this nature.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    This is generally a nicely sharp and detailed transfer, let down just a little by the odd lapse in focus and the stage lighting! I suppose that in a live recording of this nature, the odd lapses in focus do have to be accepted, but the odd thing here is that they always seem to come at a time when they are just a little noticeable. Nothing too major to disrupt the opera, but enough that they are noted. The stage lighting has the overall effect of making peripheral action quite dark, and this gets unmercifully noticed under the digital eye of DVD. It is most noticeable in Act 3, but crops up in a few other places - the dark suits of the cast blending into the dark background. Still, this was far better than the last effort through the player. In general, this is a nice clear transfer, with no real problem with grain at all. There does not appear to be any low level noise problems in the transfer.

    The colours are a lot brighter here than in the previous opera DVDs through the player, and this is a welcome change, especially when you see some of the wonderful colours of the dresses. The colours are in general very nicely handled, nicely consistent and without any sort of oversaturation problems. It is not what I would call a vibrant transfer, but that is excusable given the live recording. Apart from some minor problems with colour bleed in the red titles, there is no colour bleed problem to worry about here.

    There did not appear to be any problems with MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. About all I can report are a couple of minor instances of aliasing that could quite easily be missed. There did not appear to be any film artefacts in the transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 69:46, which is during the break between Scene 1 and Scene 2 of Act 2. This is a natural break in the opera and is the most logical place for the layer change, as it is just over half way through the opera.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is just the one audio track on this DVD, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. This is of course the correct language for the opera. It is somewhat perverse that even though it is an Italian soundtrack, it is flagged to the player as an English soundtrack.

    The vocals are quite clear and easy to understand in the overall soundtrack, although there was just the odd instance where the orchestral sound was just a tad too exuberant and briefly compromised the vocals.

    Audio sync did not appear to be a problem with the soundtrack.

    It is again something of a pity that we only have a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack on offer here, although the soundtrack is overall quite a decent effort. The soundscape is of course very stereo, and there is no discernible action out of the surround channels. The bass channel was similarly missing in action here. Free from any distortion or congestion, there really is not too much to complain about here, other than perhaps that the sound mixers could have got a slightly better balance on the vocals at times: there is a bit of a tendency in this venue for the higher notes to get clipped owing to the acoustics of the building. This manifests itself in the soundtrack by the feeling that perhaps there was something a bit higher to come - but nothing came.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Another not exactly inspiring package and once again there is no libretto.


    Not even any audio and animation enhancement this time round!

Biographies - Cast and Crew

    Extremely brief - any briefer and they would not be there - biographies of the three main cast members and the producer and conductor. I have said it before and I will no doubt say it again - this could really have been, and should really have been, so much more.


    Provides a quite reasonable synopsis of the opera in five languages, which at least gives a guide to the opera in the absence of a full libretto printout.


    A very brief synopsis is provided in the chapter selection menu if you do not feel like getting the booklet out of the super jewel case.

Web Link

    An automated link to the NVC Arts website for those with a DVD-ROM drive.

R4 vs R1

    This particular version of the opera is not available in Region 1 as far as I can determine.


    La Traviata is a great opera by all accounts, and this time it is at least given a chance to prove it with a decently strong cast. Technically, this is a very good DVD and this is one that lovers of Giuseppe Verdi should snap up.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
26th September 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL