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--Standard Repertory--

By Giuseppe Verdi

VIDEO: Ingvar Wixell, Luciano Pavarotti, Edita Gruberova, Chailly conducting; dir. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, 1983; PGD 071 501

There have been a number of great baritones who have made special recordings of the title role; they all deserve to be heard, though Riccardo Stracciari may be the greatest of them (see AUDIO G). It's frustrating that, save for the all-important Gobbi CD at the top, most Rigoletto recordings pose a choice between an accomplished cast with a respectable Rigoletto versus a superb Rigoletto and a not-quite-satisfactory cast. [G.R.]

AUDIO: A) EMI: Tito Gobbi, Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Serafin; La Scala, 1955; CDCB 47469 (mono); one of the finest complete opera sets ever made--of anything(!), splendid conviction and vocal assurance throughout; 2 caveats: 1) all the traditional cuts observed, 2) reasonably clear and solid mono sound, but the sombre, haunting orchestration comes through somewhat better in more recent stereo sets [G.R.]

B) FABBRI EDITORI: Leonard Warren, Erna Berger, Jan Peerce, Cellini conducting; almost as opulently sung a performance of the title role as in E (see below)--and with better conducting, plus more vocally hale though less idiomatic colleagues; Robert Shaw Chorale a plus; mono [G.R.]

C) DECCA/LONDON: Sherrill Milnes, Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Bonynge conducting; state-of-the-art stereophonic sound with a first-line cast in their prime performing the score in its entirety--not quite the panache of either A or B but a strong show; instrumental colors and Verdi's mastery of orchestral moods come through vividly; stereo [G.R.]

Three-way tie for the D rating (given in chronological order):

D-1) RCA: Robert Merrill, Roberta Peters, Jussi Bjoerling, Perlea conducting; three incomparably healthy and sumptuous voices in tip-top condition; all traditional cuts observed, unfortunately, in a recording marked by more energy than genuine commitment and insight (but what incredible sounds throughout from all three!); mono [G.R.]

D-2) RICORDI: Ettore Bastianini, Renata Scotto, Alfredo Kraus, Gavazzeni conducting; two charismatic vocalists vividly present the drama of Verdi's father/daughter pair, but without the further probing that could have been, what with Gavazzeni's rushed, though thoroughly engaged, baton; Kraus's Duke is efficient; some traditional cuts opened up; stereo [G.R.]

D-3) RCA: Robert Merrill, Anna Moffo, Alfredo Kraus, Solti conducting; Moffo's Gilda (from her all-too-brief prime) is as perfect in its way as anyone's; none of the others here are at her level, but the consistency of Merrill's vocalism and Kraus's technical assurance, with a less-than-simpatico instrument, round out an accomplished, musical reading representing the early 60s at its most conscientious; traditional cuts opened up; stereo [G.R.]

E) CETRA: Giuseppe Taddei, Lina Pagliughi, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Questa conducting; one of the greatest protagonists available anywhere--Taddei's Rigoletto trumping Gobbi's (Item A); his extraordinary achievement creates an aura that sometimes overshadows the fact that neither Pagliughi nor Tagliavini are really at their best; with fewer cuts than A; not such persuasive conducting; mono [G.R.]

F) VAI AUDIO: Luigi Piazza, Lina Pagliughi, Tino Folgar, Sabajno conducting; alert pliable conducting and a well-rounded ensemble of La Scala regulars from 1927 (including Pagliughi in her prime) give one an authentic taste of how the opera sounded on its home ground early this century; fair mono [G.R.]

G) MUSIC MEMORIA: Riccardo Stracciari, Mercedes Capsir, Dino Borgioli, Molajoli conducting (1930); here is the greatest interpretation of the title role ever made in the recording studio--Stracciari; unfortunately trapped with a sub-par soprano (Capsir) and somewhat perfunctory conducting; fair mono [G.R.]

For Further Reading:

The Operas of Verdi : From Oberto to Rigoletto (Vol. 1, Revised), by Julian Budden

Encounters with Verdi, by Marcello Conati, Richard Stokes, Julian Budden

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This page last revised 8/13/99 | Copyright © 1998, 1999 by Geoffrey Riggs
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