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on 22 July 2001
This recording of Rigoletto is stronger on vocal splendour than drama. Cornell MacNeil is in magnificient voice, large, dark, roomy. He sings extremely well but his portrayal is a bit bland, the bitterness and heartbreak of the hunchback not much in evidence. Joan Sutherland as Gilda, is in ravishing voice but has little to offer beyond melancholy. Renato Cioni is an attractive duke and Cesare Siepi a rather sympathetic Spara fucile but again there is little characterization. Chorus and orchestra are very good. Maestro Sanzogno's conducting is elegant but lacks dramatic bite and at times is distractingly slow. Full text, excellent sound. For sheer vocal beauty this set is hard to beat and for that reason it is worth having in your collection especially at that price.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 February 2013
Available at bargain prices and in good sound for a recording over fifty years old, this would be a sound introduction to any novice but they would be missing one important thing, and that is the impact a really dashing tenor such as Pavarotti or Bjorling can make in his music. Renato Cioni had a pleasant enough lyric tenor voice but it is somewhat throaty and decidedly a size too small for the priapic Duke who thus emerges as a bit - well, if you'll excuse the choice of word - limp. His top notes are often white, strained and snatched and he is a cipher dramatically. He enjoyed some favour with Decca around this time, recording twice with Sutherland and performing in "Tosca" with Callas and Gobbi at Covent Garden in 1964, but his bleaty sound is not very grateful.

After that, it's all gain. MacNeil had one of the most sheerly beautiful baritones in a generation which included Bastianini, Merrill, Bechi, Capecchi, Gobbi, Guelfi, Herlea, Lisitsian, Taddei, Valdengo and Warren - oh lordy, where are the baritones today? MacNeil's top notes, legato and honeyed mezza voce are all things of wonder and if he is not the dramatic equal of Gobbi nor is anyone else and he is still no slouch. A young Joan Sutherland demonstrates the kind of generalised melancholy and pathos Gilda demands and deploys her large, fruity soprano judiciously to showcase an amazing trill, some seamless cantilena and thrilling top notes. Her diction - always a problem with her type of voice - isn't so bad and she's not too droopy or swoopy. Cesare Siepi's chocolate bass is a joy even if doesn't exactly suggest evil - but that's the pattern with this recording: generally gorgeous singing which is short on characterisation. Corena lets the side with a woofy, bland Monterone; Stefania Malagù's Maddalena is fine.

Sanzogno's conducting is similarly what you'd expect from a seasoned pro steeped in Verdian tradition: nothing special, nothing unobjectionable, considerate to his singers and able to keep up the requisite momentum.

This should never be anyone's favourite "Rigoletto" with its tendency towards blandness and a sub-par tenor, but it's nonetheless very enjoyable as sheer singing.
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on 3 November 2001
Short and sweet: Cioni has a beautiful lyric tenor voice. Sutherland, of course, is a hard one to beat, if one likes larger, more mature voices in this role... and I like larger voices myself. Which brings us to Cornell MacNeil-
my main reason for buying this album. His voice was a huge, soaring instrument and was the very definition of a Verdi baritone when in his prime. He could stun the listener with the power and richness of his high notes, then turn to a pillowy soft pianissimo that still makes me shake my head with wonder. How did he do that? I disagree with those who say he scarcely provided any vocal coloration in this recording, but then, MacNeil's glorious voice has always clouded my judgement. I love Nino Sanzogno's conducting for this opera. Maybe it's not typical middle Verdi style, but it points out beauties in the score to my ears I miss in other recordings.
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on 8 April 2005
This is the "Rigoletto" for people who are not particularly interested in "Rigoletto".
The main draw, naturally, is Joan Sutherland. She offers all her youthful strengths in full measure: the amazing agility, the brilliant top, the unmatched sense of assurance. She also presents an equally expected languid dreaminess and a preference for vocal beauty over dramatic commitment. (Why did she, who could be side-splittingly funny in comedies, so often choose to seem such a droop in dramas?)
Cornell MacNeil, as usual, sings wonderfully, taking full care that dramatic requirements interfere as little as possible with the golden sound of his voice. Many years ago I saw Tito Gobbi, then at the very end of his career, sing in "Nabucco". The poor man's voice was giving out and there were dry patches that were painful to hear. A couple of years later I saw MacNeil in the very same production. To this day, I recall Gobbi's overwhelming presence as the mad king and every nuance of his megalomania, fall and redemption. MacNeil, by contrast, sang very prettily.
As the Duke, Renato Cioni had progressed from annoying (as he was in the Pritchard-conducted "Lucia" with Sutherland) to negligible. The first time I listened to this recording, I was convinced that the Duke's first big aria, Questo o quella, had been omitted. I started the disk over again and there it was--but offered in such a lackluster way that I hadn't noticed it on the first time through.
This should not be anyone's first or only "Rigoletto", but it will be of interest to fans of Sutherland or MacNeil.
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on 4 July 2007
This is Sutherland's first Rigoletto. She is in good form. Cioni, the tenor, is all right, but not very convincing. Macnell's Rigoletto is beautiful, but again dramatically inert. The conducting is a dream, however, and so it deserves to be preserved. Not a great first Rigoletto, but a good comparison to Sutherland's second or Callas's.
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on 2 April 2002
For those who aren't familiar with Rigoletto it is Verdi at his dramatic best. A wonderful story of murder gone wrong.
This recording featuring Sutherland has wonderful clarity. It's smooth, dramatic and an absolute delight to listen to.
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on 6 November 2014
Prompt delivery and great item. Exactly as described. Useful summary of the plot with this item which was great to read prior to visiting the ROH to see Rigoletto live.
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