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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Few singers on disc can match Eleanor Steber as Violetta in the historic live recording of La traviata, made at the Met; in New York on New Year’s Day 1949, and now reissued on Naxos. The beauty and precision as well as the power of Steber’s singing are phenomenal, with each note early defined down to ornamentation of diamond clarity. With the eager and youthful Giuseppe de Stefano as Alfredo, and Robert Merrill as a rock-steady, intense Germont , the emotional thrust of the drama comes over at full force, with Giuseppe Antonicelli drawing and singing from his Met. forces to match even a Toscanini. Limited radio sound clearly transferred. As a very welcome supplement come a series of Steber’s commercial recording of different arias, showing her versatility, from Verdi Rossini and Puccini to Romberg and Richard Rodgers.

Jed Distler, March 2001

"For the most part, a vocal feast awaits you, broadcast live from the Met on January 22, 1949... The principals in this marvelous La Traviata are captured in their exultant primes. As Violetta, Eleanor Steber can do anything. Verdi's florid writing fazes her not one bit: she brings fluid defiance to Sempre Libera's quick, downward phrases, and instills Verdi's long lyrical lines with ravishing, floating colors. Robert Merrill is a freer, more supple Germont than his driven portrayal in the famed Toscanini broadcast two years earlier, with just as huge a sonority. Heard in his first Met Alfredo, Giuseppi di Stefano fares best in the first act, and becomes increasingly erratic as he pushes his tone for effect, and causes a few small but noticeable derailments in Act 3 when he loses his place in the score. Still, you can't deny that his voice is a force of nature. On the podium, Giuseppe Antonicelli takes the mishaps in stride, and elicits alert orchestral results that never smack of routine. A grab bag of Steber excerpts from opera, operetta, and Broadway, culled from live and commercial sources, fills out Disc 2."

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