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Subject: A Great Traviata Whose Recording We May Never Hear
From: Tom Leschefsky <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 2 Jan 2003 02:51:05 EST

text/plain (72 lines)

Dear List,

In 1984, I saw a production of TRAVIATA in San Diego with Rosalind Plowright.
 I was an operatic tyro at that time, and don't recall who the other singers
were or who conducted the performance.  Though I am strictly an amateur
critic today with much to learn about singing, I was an even more ignorant
and naive amateur back then, but nevertheless I recall Plowright's
performance as being extraordinarily impressive.  I was certain then she was
going to become a big star, and more specifically, a very famous Violetta, of
the stature of Beverly Sills, my then favorite Violetta, whose recording I
had heard before I saw Plowright.

I then bought Plowright's recording of TROVATORE with Domingo, conducted by
Giulini, released in 1983, which seemed to corroborate my then positive
feelings about her, and which even today, with a lot more knowledge under my
belt, seems to me to indicate what a potentially great artist she was in
1983-84.  I also recall reading that Giulini was very pleased with the

Everything then seemed to go wrong very quickly and there were a number of
disasters,  the most prominent being her 1985 FORZA recording with Sinopoli,
and then recently Plowright surfaced as a mezzo, singing Amneris on the
Chandos English-language version of AIDA with Jane Eaglen to very mixed
reviews.  I'm sure there's more to her story than this, but my concerm is
with these bare bones of it because I want to ask a question.

I have read in the Opera-l archives and elsewhere that after he made the
TROVATORE recording with Plowright, Giulini scheduled a TRAVIATA, and the
sessions were ostensibly held in 1984.

According to the story I've read, Giulini was exceptionally dissatisfied with
this TRAVIATA and, goes the story,  the major reason for his dissatisfaction
was Plowright.  Giulini then told DG that if they released the TRAVIATA, he
would refuse to make all of the proposed recordings that were scheduled for
the balance of his contract.  DG caved in and the TRAVIATA now languishes
somewhere in the DG vaults.

I'd be extremely reluctant to argue with a musician of the stature of
Giulini, and if indeed he suppressed the TRAVIATA because he found
Plowright's contribution unworthy, I'm sure something exceptionally negative
must have happened between the TROVATORE, where she sings thrillingly and
beautifully, and the TRAVIATA.

On the other hand, that Plowright's performance was Giulini's major objection
to the release of the set is a conjecture, and there may have been other
factors.  To be honest, that the set even exists in completed form is a

The final element of the story is that it's considered likely when Giulini
dies, his heirs will give permission for all his unpublished recordings to be
released, including this TRAVIATA, again if it in fact exists, especially
since he never made another studio recording of the opera, even though EMI
has officially released his 1955 La Scala "live" performance with Callas.

I find it hard to believe that the wonderful singer I saw in 1984 in San
Diego could have deteriorated vocally within a few months, when the recording
was made, to the point of giving a wretchedly inferior performance.  Again,
disagreeing with Giulini seems arrogant, but again it's not certain that
Plowright was the real cause of his dissatisfaction, though it's part of the
story as I've read it.

Does anyone have any information about this recording and about the
likelihood that it will someday be released?   I confess that even if
Plowright were experiencing some form of vocal crisis, which seems unlikely
in such a short space of time, though not impossible, I would still love to
hear this recording.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Tom Leschefsky
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