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NB: while this recording is a winner in any form, the following review is for the superior Pristine Audio issue in remastered Ambient Stereo, unavailable on Amazon. I note that some reviewers do not like what EMI have done in their more recent remastered issues, whereas Pristine have done their usual impeccable job.

My MusicWeb colleague Göran Forsling has provided a fine comparative survey of the four mono recordings from the 50’s and concluded that this EMI issue always had the best recorded sound, the quality of performance notwithstanding. However, this Pristine remastering into Ambient Stereo gives it even more of an sonic edge and the opportunity to appreciate afresh just how good the singers here are; its warmth and depth confer renewed presence and immediacy on proceedings, while minor irritations and blemishes have been minimalised by Andrew Rose.

Fortunately they are accompanied by a conductor, chorus and orchestra entirely immersed in the Verdian idiom, providing ideal support. Serafin does nothing eccentric or flashy but simply knows how this music should go and does it, giving his singers plenty of time to make their points without undue self-consciousness.

Little more can be said about the principals which has not already been observed in the sixty or so years since its issue after the miraculously busy recording year of 1955. For some Di Stefano for all his élan, is a touch crude and shouty and the too open vowels presage troubles to come, but his is a highly energised, winning assumption with many splendid moments. Gobbi’s voice might have been a little lean in tone for the ideal Verdi baritone but his range of colour and expression is miraculous; no singer since has so completely embodied this most complex of characters. Even Taddei, Warren or Milnes, all of whom are evidently deeply immersed in their portrayals and had more conventionally apt voices with stronger upper extensions, could not rival Gobbi for involvement. It might be true that Callas was not naturally suited to the role of Gilda but she was such a consummate vocal actress and technician that she entirely convinces as the waif whose obsessive love imbues her with a will of iron – enough to defy her father and sacrifice her life for a rake. Her downward portamento remains a thing of ineffable beauty. All three singers live their parts, providing a thoroughly satisfying synthesis of music and drama.

The supporting cast is splendid, especially Zaccaria’s saturnine Sparafucile. Lazzarini is not the most compelling or individual of mezzo-sopranos to record Maddalena but she is much more than adequate.

This restoration and revitalisation from Pristine ensures that the current generation can hear what remains, despite the cuts standard for the time, artistically the most complete “Rigoletto” on record. The only drawback is that a libretto must be accessed elsewhere.

For a more modern recording, and if you prefer their voices, I recommend the Bonynge on Decca, with Sutherland, Pavarotti and Milnes in finest form; see my review.
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on 13 January 2016
Excellent production with singers at the peak of their abilities.
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on 11 June 2003
This is really a great recording of one of Verdi's most popular operas. The Swedish and Norwegian cast is really formidable. Jussi Bjorling's Duke is as good as ever. His characterization is even better than on the Naxos release of the Met performance. He gives more of a carefree, womanizing, arrogant man who makes love to women and then throws them away. His interpretation here takes more advantage of his experience, and it certainly helps to be on home turf too. Erik Sundqvist's Rigoletto does remind me of the great Leonard Warren. He doesn't quite prosess Warren's great characteristic voice that makes his Rigolettos so magnificent, but the characterization is similar. Sundqvist does posses a great voice that is ideally suited for the jester. He does also live the role on the stage. Eva Prytz's Gilda came as a revelation here. She is probably the most beautifully voiced Gilda on record. The Norwegian soprano is so really great throughout the opera. She sings 'Caro nome' so wonderfully. Full of the coloratura the role requires. She sings very excitingly in the great quartet in act 3, soaring over the other three. Her characterization is really good as the sweet innocent young woman who sacrifices herself because she loves the Duke.
The conducting is also very good. Bendix is very senstive to the score and the drama, delivering very exciting orchestral sounds when called for and very soft when called for, e.g. in the scenes with Rigoletto and Gilda.
Something that was even more as a surprise than the glorious Gilda of Prytz is the sound. This is a live broadcast from Stockholm in January 1957. The sound of this broadcast is really exceptionally good. It is in stereo and everyone at all times is very clearly heard. I normally say that sound on live performances is good if one can hear somewhat clearly what is being sung, but this performance has as good sound as the 67 Bohm Ring or 62 Parsifal. I had to remind myself that this is not a studio recording. I have never heard of a live performance from the 50's that had stereo sound before, in addition to great mixing.
Any serious collector wouldn't be without this one, especially if one is a fan of Bjorling. This is really a great one.
22 comments|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 April 2015
Excellent
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on 18 February 2015
Perfect
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on 28 April 2003
This is really a great recording of one of Verdi's most popular operas. The Swedish and Norwegian cast is really formidable. Jussi Bjorling's Duke is as good as ever. His characterization is even better than on the Naxos release of the Met performance. He gives more of a carefree, womanizing, arrogant man who makes love to women and then throws them away. His interpretation here takes more advantage of his experience, and it certainly helps to be on home turf too. Erik Sundqvist's Rigoletto does remind me of the great Leonard Warren. He doesn't quite prosess Warren's great characteristic voice that makes his Rigolettos so magnificent, but the characterization is similar. Sundqvist does posses a great voice that is ideally suited for the jester. He does also live the role on the stage. Eva Prytz's Gilda came as a revelation here. She is probably the most beautifully voiced Gilda on record. The Norwegian soprano is so really great throughout the opera. She sings 'Caro nome' so wonderfully. Full of the coloratura the role requires. She sings very excitingly in the great quartet in act 3, soaring over the other three. Her characterization is really good as the sweet innocent young woman who sacrifices herself because she loves the Duke.
The conducting is also very good. Bendix is very senstive to the score and the drama, delivering very exciting orchestral sounds when called for and very soft when called for, e.g. in the scene with Rigoletto and Gilda.
Something that was even more as a surprise than the glorious Gilda of Prytz is the sound. This is a live broadcast from Stockholm in January 1957. The sound of this broadcast is really exceptionally good. It is in stereo and everyone at all times is very clearly heard. I normally say that sound on live performances is good if one can hear somewhat clearly what is being sung, but this performance has as good sound as the 67 Bohm Ring or 62 Parsifal. I had to remind myself that this is not a studio recording. I have never heard of a live performance from the 50's that had stereo sound before, in addition to great mixing.
Any serious collector wouldn't be without this one, especially if one is a fan of Bjorling. This is really a great one.
11 comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 February 2015
Callas always good
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on 2 August 2014
ver y good
11 comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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