I've seen more than a eighty different sopranos in the title-role of Verdi's TRAVIATA over the years. Patricia Brooks's interpretation of the role of Violetta in Frank Corsaro's memorable production for the New York City Opera in 1966, with Placido Domingo as Alfredo, remains at the top of the list. Employing her rather slender and agile voice to optimum effect, she created a portrait of the doomed courtesan that has resonated over the decades. Paradoxically feverish and fragile, Brooks moved audiences - literally - to tears.
Listening again, nearly fifty years on, to my in-house recording of the Act I scena brings back a flood of memories of the myriad nuances - both vocal and dramatic - that gave the Brooks Violetta its unique place in the opera's performance history.
One thing about Ms. Brooks in this role: she was forever making tiny changes in both her singing and her acting of the role, maintaining its freshness over the half-dozen times I saw her in the role. As Matthew Epstein, a great Brooks admirer, said: "No two Brooks Violettas are alike!"
There were other Violettas who moved and thrilled me, but none quite reached the soul of the desperate woman who sacrifices her own happiness so that someone else may be happy.