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This review is from: Verdi: Rigoletto (Audio CD)
This was one of DECCA's super-cast performances of the '60s and '70s, intended to give "definitive" interpretations of the works recorded. Unfortunately, this time the mark was missed by a small margin.
The greatest problem is Richard Bonynge. Though Rigoletto is NOT a conductor's opera, a good conductor is required to create the proper mood and to assist the singers in making this very old-fashioned tale, sound believable and vital. Mr Bonynge with his "historic" approach does everything in his power to stress the old-fashioned elements in Verdi's score and constantly underplays the dramatic aspects of the work.
Sherrill Milnes was never an ideal Verdi baritone in the traditional sense. The voice had a sharp edge, the sound lacked the uniformity and authority of a true dramatic baritone and there was often a tenor ring to his, otherwise very impressive, high register. Still, he was a great artist, -not only a great actor (as is the case with Gobbi,) but also a great SINGER. His musicianship is fascinating, his phrasing has an irresistible charm and, of course, his portrayal is mesmerizing. I think he is one of the greatest Rigolettos on record.
Luciano Pavarotti, naturally, is THE Duke of Mantua. The sound of the voice alone carries all the qualities that are needed to portray this irresistible cad. Pavarotti sounds youthfull, charming, suave and passionate. Above all, he sounds Italian. There is that special feelling in every note he utters, that reminds us that this art is part of his heritage, -perhaps part of his DNA. No need to add that, this being 1971, he is in spectacular form and his high notes are breath-taking.
Unfortunately, this recording comes rather late in Joan Sutherland's carreer. By 1971, though her abilities were undiminished, the voice had taken on a mature sound, which failled to convey Gilda's girlishness, especially in the first act. As the drama progresses, her Gilda becomes more convincing and, by the time we reach the last act, she has us "in her thrall". Still, I must confess that whenever I want to hear HER in Rigoletto, I pull out the older (and desperately flawed, as far as her co-stars are concerned) recording from 1962.
Martti Talvela is a spine-chilling Sparafucile, his low notes, especially, being among the most cavernous ever recorded.
You may think that Maddalena is not an important role, but unfortunately she does take part in two of the most beautiful numbers in the last act and Huguette Tourangeau, with her atrocious low register, does everything in her power to ruin them.
All in all, this is a set that has a lot to offer and, given the competition, it is certainly one of the contestants for the "best-available" recording of Rigoletto, but, alas, perfect it is not.
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Initial post: 20 Mar 2011 06:08:00 GMT
Judy Spotheim says:
Well said; Not the perfect Rigoletto; Sutherland's voice in 1971 was already too "old" for this. Her earlier recording was better and had better pronunciations; as she "matured" - so matured the lemon in her throat too, to such a degree that no one could understand her words anymore...)
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