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3.7 out of 5 stars
Verdi: Rigoletto
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£63.85+ £1.26 shipping

TOP 100 REVIEWERon 8 May 2016
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 12 December 2014
This was a mixed bag for me. On the plus side we have Giulini's conducting. There’s always something new with CMG – be it the pace or bringing forward a section of the orchestra previously lost, and the atmosphere from the off is great. Cotrubas had such a sweet voice, she is an ideal Gilda (though if you want the coloratura version then go for Sutherland or Gruberova).

Both Domingo and Cappuccilli are in the plus and minus camp - Domingo's tone is gorgeous. He starts well and with aplomb, but the Duke is a terribly difficult sing and he struggles in two important areas - "E il sol dell'anima" where the climb to B flats is uncomfortable, and, more importantly, the great quartet is marred by his struggle. The tessitura is just too high and sustained for him. It's an opera for Pavarotti, Bergonzi, and Kraus.

Cappuccilli puts great attention into his interpretation, he tries to relax his usual tendency to produce a "strained" sound in his voice (a habit I've always found perplexing to say the least). He's a Luna, a Macbeth or a Rodrigo, but I'm not convinced he's a Rigoletto.

Still, come on, I'm giving this four stars, but there are better recordings: DFD/Kubelik - Merrill/Solti - Milnes/Bonynge - Zancanaro/Muti - Bruson/Sinopoli. It's too beautiful an opera to settle for less.
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on 13 June 2013
Hard to review without hearing it. Have been promised a replacement as the first cd seems to have gone missing, but the second one seems to have followed suit. After 11/2 months all I've received has been the bill. I'd say that's a bit unfair
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on 24 July 2005
Well, I am surprised at how little this 1984 recording features in any discussion of great Rigolettos. I should say I have never listened to the famous Callas/Gobbi version but I have got the equally famous Leonard Warren/Jan Peerce version. I think this set is great. Lucia Popp is caught here in wonderful fresh voice as ever. Her vocal range is perfectly suited to the role of Gilda and the sheer beauty of her voice makes up for any slight lack of emotion. After all, Gilda isn't as complex a character as a Tosca or Lucia anyway.
Her command of the high notes is so complete that she can add small embellishments to some of the set-piece arias (Caro nome, tutte le feste for example) without ever sounding forced. The ease with which she performs these pieces allows the music to speak for itself and the emotion comes through naturally.
Bernd Weikl was unknown to me as a singer. I think he sings this role with a secure rich tone, with the required colour and emotion and without the histrionics that I can find off putting.
Then we also have Giacomo Aragall, who in my opinion has one of the most beautiful tenor voices ever (listen to his wonderful partnership of Joan Sutherland in Esclarmonde). Here he is perfectly suited for the lyrical Count.
Finally, we have a warm rounded voice in Klara Takacs' contralto Maddelena also managing to add some nice detail to her character and an evil sounding Sparafucile from Jan-Hendrik Rootering.
Lamberto Gardelli knits it all together, playing to his singers strengths and directing what is an extremely fine performance all round. Don't let snobbishness put you off from trying this set - all at a bargain price too !
Highly recommended!
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on 15 February 2014
I see that there are other positive reviews of this remarkable recording in its originals reincarnation on this site but this is the cd version I own and much as I value the classic Gobi, Callas, di Stefano, Serafin reading, as well as the celebrated Sutherland, milnes, Pavarotti and the digital sinopoli reading with Bruson, this Giulini reading is highly distinctive and all of the soloists bring this performance to life. Capucilli is moving, investing the character with a true sense of pathos, Domingo is superb as the carefree duke, Cotrubas sounds a little too closely miked and yet this is a very minor quibble in an interpretation in which she provides one of the most convincing Gilda's on record. Hers is not the most beautiful voice in comparison to many other recordings but it possesses dramatic integrity. the sound balance between orchestra and voices is not ideal in several respects but this is a very minor blemish in a set which remains one of my desert island discs.
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on 28 December 2015
You should ignore most perfectly well constructed and thoughtful reviews as they clearly relate to other recordings. This is a wonderful recording and Gobbi was made for the part of Rigoletto. Look for reviews of the same recording for some relevant opinions. I regard this as one the best recordings. I would have written nothing, except I had to draw attention to Amazon's mistake in posting some reviews here. I posted this review against a review of a Gobbi recording. But Amazon have managed to post it against a Giulini recording!!
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on 1 February 2014
The conducting and casting is no good. When compared to other recordings, such as Solti's with Merrill as Rigoletto, this is simply no good. Popp and Aragall sing well but their involvement is quite poor which can probably be blamed on Gardelli's dull conducting work. Weikl's singing is simply bad compared to Merrill and Sherrill..

Go for Solti (Merrill, Moffo et al) or Bonynge (Sherrill Milnes, Pavarotti et al) instead.
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on 2 September 2011
The main reason I purchased this recording is to hear the beautiful tenor voice of Giacomo Aragall. His silvery tone soars through the role. It is, on the whole, a great recording BUT, again, I have to rant about several inexplicable cuts to the score. They even shave off some of the exquisite duet between Rigoletto and Gilda in Act 1 as well as many short snips elsewhere - totally unnecessary. Grrrrrrr!
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on 7 November 2014
Aragall in tremendous form.
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