Three of Verdi’s finest for around $40 is good value by most people’s reckoning and this BelAir set would make a welcome inclusion in any opera fan’s library.
French soprano Mireille Delunsch is incandescent as the dying Violetta in Peter Mussbach’s noir 2003 Aix Festival La Traviata. Everyone is dressed in black while the blonde heroine palpitates in sequined white like Marilyn Monroe (or is it Catherine Deneuve?). Matthew Polenzani is impressive as Alfredo, sweet toned and secure in the big moments.
Dmitri Tcherniakov’s 2009 Macbeth at L’Opera National de Paris is the standout of this collection. The treatment is simply breathtaking, with a clever use of sets. The cast is top-notch: Greek baritone Dmitris Tilakos is totally convincing and Lithuanian soprano Violeta Urmana sings powerfully and beautifully, descending into bloody madness looking like a deranged Dawn French. The chorus are superb and the great scene in the fourth act where the displaced Scots are shattered by war evokes chilling footage of refugees.
Nicolas Joel’s 2007 Zurich Opera production of Aida, on the other hand, evokes the flag-waving of empire. Nina Stemme makes a compelling Aida. Salvatore Licitra, whose death from a brain haemorrhage in 2011 cut short a promising career, is built like a young Pavarotti though without the wonderful natural voice.