Vienna has seen and heard three different Violettas in a run of four performances at the beginning of this new season. Aleksandra Kurzak (Sept. 3 & 6) like Marina Rebeka who stepped in on Sept. 12, gave her role debut as Violetta, Desirée Rancatore (Sept. 9) made her house debut after having „recommended“ herself as Konstanze in Salzburg.
Violetta’s last aria is not an easy one if you want to sing it right, although the tessitura does not provide much difficulty apart from an uncomfortable „sogni riden-TI“ and a the last note ending again on an I. What you need is good breath management, an impeccable legato, a really firm vocal line and perfect vocal control with excellent diction, but at the same time you have to express the voiceless frailty and the heartbreak of a doomed woman.
„Teneste la promessa… la disfida ebbe luogo!
il barone fu ferito, però migliora.
Alfredo è in stranio suolo;
il vostro sacrifizio Io stesso gli ho svelato;
Egli a voi tornerà pel suo perdono; Io pur verrò.
Curatevi… meritate un avvenir migliore. – Giorgio Germont”.
Attendo, attendo né a me giungon mai! . . .
Oh, come son mutata!
Ma il dottore a sperar pur m’esorta!
Ah, con tal morbo ogni speranza è morta.
Addio, del passato bei sogni ridenti,
Le rose del volto gia sono pallenti ;
L’amore d’Alfredo perfino mi manca,
Conforto, sostegno dell’ anima stanca.
Conforto ! Sostegno !
Ah, della traviata sorridi al desio ;
A lei, deh, perdona ; tu accoglila, o Dio !
Ah ! Tutto, tutto fini. Or tutto, tutto fini !
The most uninspired letter-reading – exxagerating badly „curatevi“ and „è tardi“. Kurzak sounds hollow in the middle range and tight and hard-voiced in the high register, she is approximate and imprecise. Little drive in the legato phrases. Insignificant as an interpreter of the text. She sings the notes – e basta. Not a single phrase one could single out as something special. This role is two sizes too big for her.
I find Rancatore´s version a total disaster – especially vocally, but also as an interpreter. The letter – lousy diction although contrary to the other two she sings in her mother tongue – shows hardly any imagination at all sounding as if she read it for the first time. Bad or no vocal placement and uneven vocal registers. Every note seems to come from somewhere else. She goes flat sounding „swollen“ and out of focus at „l´amore d´Alfredo “ and handicapped by her technical shortcomings is unable to produce genuine vowels singing rather „tutto fiiiinaoaoao“.
“Among the blind the one-eyed is king.” From a purely vocal point of view probably the „most correctly sung“ version of these „new“ Violettas – yet rather full voiced with little nuance and she falls almost in every pitfall the aria provides (starting right at an ugly „è tardi“ and „ogni speranza è moRTA“). „L´amore d´Alfredo“ is loud but has no intensity. No real depth of feeling, no grasp of the role and going flat on the last note.
I have to admit I did not find the time (and motivation) to go and hear any of these three here… But can you blame me?
Apart from the „classic“ versions by Callas and Muzio I find a lot to treasure in this recording by Margherita Carosio. One can surely argue whether vocally she had all it takes to make a convincing Violetta, but her recording of this aria is impressive for several reasons: it is deeply felt, never over-sentimental or cheap, no sobbing or moaning, the voice well collected, a clear line with great care for details and nuances and diction. Here is somebody who carves out the essence of this aria and its text, someone who succeeds to convey the meaning of the lyrics, the desperation, resignation and loneliness of this character. One might find the reading of the letter just a little too lofty, „Alfredo è in stranio suolo“ a hint exaggerated. Beautiful and intense „attendo, attendo“ and „ma il Dottore a sperar pur m´esorta“. Smooth and beautifully focused tone at the start of the aria. The voice gains a certain edgyness when she puts weight on it as in „l´amore d´Alfredo“, but she sure knows how to stretch an musical arch and sing a legato line. She reserves the passionate outbreak and climax for „Ah, della traviata sorridi al desio; A lei, deh, perdona; tu accoglila, o Dio!“ What a pity though that the final note is a hint flat.