Beautifully sung and conducted, but for me there are better versions out there
Rigoletto is one of my all-time favourite Verdi operas alongside La Traviata, Don Carlo, Otello and Aida(Il Trovatore and La Forza Del Destino I also love). The story is compelling and moving and the music is magnificent. Of the productions I've seen, my favourites are Jean Pierre Ponnelle's film and the David McVicar production. I also liked the Lucic and Damrau production. This Rigoletto isn't quite as good, but it is definitely worth watching.
Mainly because musically it is really outstanding. The orchestral playing is full of power, energy and pathos for the climatic trio, the opening scene and Parmi Veder Le Lagrime, and Jesus Lopez-Cobos' conducting is beautifully done emphasising the stark contrasts of the drama of Rigoletto. That is especially true in the first scene, which did give a suitably out-of-control feel, and the tender father-daughter scenes that contrast with the more sinister scenes like the encounter between Rigoletto and assassin Sparafucile. The chorus are very well-balanced.
And all three principals really impress. I was very taken in particular with the Gilda of Inva Mula, conveying the impassioned lover and girlish naivety of the role brilliantly and singing with delicacy, passion and beauty of tone. Carlos Alvarez is also a superb Rigoletto. I wasn't crazy about his rather extreme make-up, but found his dark, burnished voice and very malevolent and poignant presence altogether riveting throughout. Marcelo Alvarez, apart from in La Donna E Mobile, which is wonderfully cynical and shows what a conceited brute the Duke is, doesn't quite command the stage as one would like, I actually found Pavarotti showed more personality in Ponnelle's film, but sings with a clear, singing tone in every single one of his Bel-Canto-style arias.
Of the secondary roles, Nino Surguladze is a physically and dramatically smashing Maddalena, and sings similarly seductively in the Quartet. The Giovanna of Merce Obiol is also good. I didn't find Julian Konstantinov as impressive. He is appropriately sinister as Sparafucile and does improve later on, but could've done with a more rounded and darker tone in his encounter with Alvarez's Rigoletto, he sounded unsteady to me. Here though, the weak link was Stanislav Shvets' Monterone, vocally woolly and the staging of his scene in Act 2 with the 5 or 6 cortigiani made to behave like naughty boys single-handedly lessened his imposing hold over Rigoletto.
The production is not as convincing visually than it is musically. Rigoletto is a dark and somewhat brutal opera, but I think there is a difference between emphasising the brutality subtly(like McVicar did) and making it almost too brutal through ugly, stark sets and Rigoletto made up to look like The Elephant Man. Sadly this production leans towards the latter. The staging does have some good assets, the staging of La Donna E Mobile worked wonders as did the moving touch of Rigoletto lifting the dying Gilda onto the chair. However, the part where Rigoletto punches the sack repeatedly believing that the Duke is inside is so savage that I am impressed that Mula still had the strength to sing Lassu In Ciel.
In regard to the sound quality, it is good with the singers but there are times when the orchestra weren't as powerful-sounding as they ought to have been, like in Si Vendetta. The video directing and picture quality are quite good. In conclusion, there are better productions but the musical values, a couple of directorial touches and the singing of Alvarez(Carlos and Marcelo) and Mula are so splendid it is worth seeing. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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