Picks and Pans Review: La Traviata

updated 06/13/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/13/1983 01:00AM

Opera buffs may enjoy it the most, but this big-screen version of Verdi's classic should be fun for anyone. It is lavishly mounted and beautifully sung, with New York Metropolitan Opera stars Placido Domingo and Teresa Stratas appearing in the lead roles. For those who may not be familiar with the story: Stratas plays a beautiful woman with a shady past who finds herself pursued by a love-struck young merchant's son, played by Domingo. They proceed to embark on a passionate affair that is interrupted by a visit from the young man's father, who has found out that Stratas once was a courtesan. He decides he cannot agree to give his daughter away in marriage so long as the family honor is tainted by the scandal of his son's affair. Stratas, gorgeous and at times looking almost like a dreamy Barbra Streisand, eventually gives in to the father's pleas to stop the affair, but then later she changes her mind. After a considerable amount of hemming and hawing—all of it immensely entertaining—the lovers seem to have found happiness, but wait... In any case, it's not really the story that is the point here. The music, of course, is sensational, and James Levine, leading the Met orchestra, and Stratas and Domingo are in peak form. This is not simply a filmed version of an opera that is usually performed onstage, though. The setting, Paris around 1850, is re-created in dazzling fashion, and the lighting and direction by Franco Zeffirelli—who is best known for his 1968 movie rendering of Romeo and Juliet—contribute to the movie's enormous visual appeal. Seeing La Traviata is something like going to one of those spectacular all-day wedding celebrations that you wish would never end. (In Italian with English subtitles) (G)

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