La Traviata / Arturo Toscanini / amazon

Two CD set. Because the dress rehearsals did not constitute a real performance, given before a paying audience, Toscanini himself participates uninhibitedly. We frequently hear him hushing his singers and orchestra or enthusiastically cheering them on, throwing out a monitory “Crescendo!” or “Legato!” or simply singing along. And in Act II, Scene 1, we are surprised to hear him, in his hoarsely croaking baritone, taking the role of Violetta’s servant Guiseppe in place of a singer who was evidently indisposed. Since these were dress rehearsals, there are none of the famous Toscanini outbursts of temper though at one point he does come close. The blend of total emotional involvement and professional detachment is characteristic, revealing, and, very moving.