Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 02/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For Verdi fans, this 1979 studio recording is a must have, even if you already own other recordings of Rigoletto. There are many fine, outstanding recordings in the market - among them a classic recording featuring Bjussi Bjorling and Roberta Peters, but a good Rigoletto should not be limited to mere novelty and flashy singing -this opera is full of such great arias as the famous tenor aria "La Dona E Mobile" and many singers like Pavoratti merely show off their voice. It requires really great acting and convincing passions. Fortunately,there are some singers who do get into the characters and provide us with real drama - names that come to mind for terrific Rigolettos are Robert Merill, Juan Pons and in this recording Sherill Milnes and there have been many fine Gildas as this recording's Beverly Sills, the forementioned Roberta Peters, Sumi Jo and Andrea Rost most recently. The good thing about Rigoletto is that for once, a baritone is the star and the character with most substance. Usually baritones in opera are fatherly figures or villains. The character of Rigoletto the hunchback jester was the inspiration for the troubled clown in I Pagliacci. Rigoletto is a man of contrast and conflict. He is a loving father as well as a man consumed by revenge. He comes off like a lost Shakespearean tragic hero. THE STORY was sensational for its time. Verdi drew plot from a Victor Hugo play. Rigoletto is the court jester of the corrupt and immoral Duke of Renaissance Mantua, Italy, and his fawning court are sycophants. Rigoletto is himself a man of questionable virtue since he was as bad as the courtiers who helped in bringing the lusty Duke new female sexual victims. In Act 1, Monterrone, whose daughter has been raped by the Duke, is insulted by Rigoletto- his biggest mistake. Monterrone puts a curse on Rigoletto. The curse theme music is played significantly in the score. Soon, the curse takes effect. Rigoletto's daughter Gilda falls for the Duke's trap when he disguises himself as a poor student only to have her courtiers abduct her and bring her into his bed chamber where he rapes her. Rigoletto learns about the incident and swears revenge. He hires a hitman Sparafucile to kill the Duke. But by the end of the opera, Gilda gives up her life willingly for the Duke and Sparafucile accidentally kills her instead. The evil Duke lives scot-free and Rigoletto mourns the death of his daughter, recalling "La Maldizzione" the curse of Monterrone.THIS RECORDING was made in 1978-79. By this time, the principal singers were seasoned and veteran opera stars- tenor Alfredo Kraus, soprano Beverly Sills and baritone Sherril Milnes had been singing for years and were approaching retirement from the stage. Nevertheless, they are so well-trained both dramatically as actors and as singers that their age is irrelevant. They do deliver a spectacular opera. Sherill Milnes is one of the best Rigoletto's- full of anguish, despair, vindictive spirit and bitterness. Impressive are his "Vendetta" aria, his duets with Gilda in touching father-daughter moments and his attack on the wicked Duke's court "Cortigiani, vil raza" as well as his powerfully moving final scene. Alfredo Kraus' potrayal of the Don Giovanni-type Duke of Mantua is sensational. Brilliantly sung and brilliantly performed, he comes off as wanton, devil-may-care and degenerate -"Questo E Quella" and "La Dona E Mobile" are greatly delivered as well as his wooing song "E il sol dell'anima". Beverly Sill's Gilda will move you to tears. Her sweet but powerful soprano voice is tinged with pathos and naivete- "Caro Nome" is the best interpretation on my perpective and so is her death scene. The Ambrosia Opera Chorus sings in fine harmony and Julius Rudel as always conducts a fine orchestra. This recording is also available in "Highlights" form on Amazon.com. In fact, this entire recording is out of stock but hopefully it will resurface from the z-shops soon. A must have and absolutely the best Rigoletto there is."
An excellent introduction to Rigoletto
Ted Zoldan | Los Angeles, CA, USA | 08/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this opera several months ago as my first Rigoletto. This was my introduction to the opera and it serves as an extreamly worthy one. This may not be the best RIGOLETTO out there, but it does come close.
We have Julius Rudel at the helm here, in firm terriotory as a Verdi conductior. The Cast is uniformally excellent. He and the Philharmonia orchestra turns the music into a whole other world, a threatinging prelude, an act one party where you almost can see the debauchery in the air and the music, a dark confrontation between Rigoletto and Sparafucile. Rudel lets the tragedy spiral downwards at a breakneck (but not too hasty) pace that works well for the last two acts, but lets the lyrical moments hang on the edges of your memorymost efectivley.
Alfredo Kraus is somewhat past his prime here, but still gives a exhilarating performace of the duke. His high D at the end of Possintene Amour" is thrilling. Sills is likewise edging the end of her career but she is still Sills, still excellent, and still beautiful. Sherrill Milnes here holds his place as the successor to Tito Gobbi as the greatest Bass-Baritone of the Day. His Rigoletto is amazing, a Chilling, dark sound that can only be rivaled by Gobbi. He shocked me into cold stone silence several times durrring the opera. Samuel Ramey, one of my personal favorite singers, is caught here at the early stage of his greatness, singing both a Dark and frightening Sparafucile and an anguished, threatining Montarone. Mignon Dunn is a senusal Maddeleana, and the smaller parts are handeled expertly as well. 10/10"
American Evita | U.S. | 09/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"ABOUT THE ALBUM: VERDI (RIGOLETTO) EMI RECORDS, LTD, RECORDED 1978, RELEASED AS AN LP 1979, RELEASED AS A CD IN 2000 BY ANGEL RECORDS.. CAST: Sherill Milnes, baritone (Rigoletto) Beverly Sills, soprano (Gilda), Alfredo Kraus, tenor (The Duke), Samuel Ramey (Sparafucile), Mignon Dunn, mezzo soprano (Maddalena) Ann Murray, mezzo soprano (Giovanna), Philharmonia Orchestra, Julius Rudel, conductor.
Why with all the Rigoletto recordings with singers like Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Anna Moffo, Bjussi Bjorling, Roberta Peters, Dietrich Fiscker Dieskau, Placido Domingo, Ileana Contrubas, etc, would you want to look for this 1979 recording with Beverly Sills, Sherill Milnes and Alfredo Kraus ? Simple. This is one opera that never gets old and whose interpretations by various singers remain interesting. This one is a winner in many ways and a great Rigoletto.
In the late 1970's, Bevery Sills' career was in its final phase and she was performing in the US on farewell tours, with various companies, conductors and singers. She was recording at this time as well for EMI. Other than this Rigoletto, you'll find Donizetti's Don Pasquale, Rossini's Barber of Seville and Charpentier's French opera Louise. She was being televised in performances of La Traviata and Manon, the latter largely regarded as her finest achievement in the lyric repertoire. Although Beverly Sill's voice is over the hill at this point, she is taking on light, purely lyric-coloratura roles that she had always been able to sing without any difficulty. Her Gilda is touching, and brilliant, an example of how her technique and style had not been completely ruined. She has a gift for acting and her beautiful, feminine, motherly voice, with her strong suit being legato and long spun phrases, makes for very emotionally driven characterizations. Gilda was a role she had taken on before in her youth and it was a part she was very familiar with. Her "Caro Nome" is masterful! The final duet with Milnes' Rigoletto as she is dying is extremely poignant. Her voice fades away in whisper and light. This is one performance that I find to be the most satisfying of her late career phase. Despite any criticism regarding her maturity, age, shrillness of sound, I don't hear any of it. She is able to live the role of the young Gilda and becomes her through sheer force of will, through talented vocal interpretation and acting. I love her voice and I love her Gilda, even if there are singers like Anna Moffo and Ileana Contrubas who really do manage to fit the part like a glove. Beverly Sills is always very exciting and charming, with a voice of an angel who has seen the world and lived in it. This is a great performance and one that you should own if you're a fan of Beverly Sills who passed away of lung cancer in 2007.
Sherill Milnes, the beloved American baritone and reigning Verdi baritone of the 70's, makes a very fine Rigoletto. It's a role that seems perfectly tailored for his voice. He is somehow more tender, more complex as Rigoletto than the previous roles he did of Verdi's mid-career. As Amonasro, Aida's father, he is too severe. He did a devilish Count Di Luna in Trovatore and he accomplished what only a few baritones in his day could - sing the hell out of Verdi in the baritone department. He is a veteran singer by this recording but he was still actively singing and was still an amazing performer. His strong baritone voice lasted for years. Sherill Milnes had worked with Beverly Sills before (Barber of Seville) and it's nice to see that this recording has three authentic Americans - Sills, Milnes and Ramey. You can really tell that Milnes and Sills have chemistry that is not often seen today.
Alfredo Kraus' Duke is not famous. He's overshadowed by Pavarotti's account and Domingo's. But he sings a terrific "Questo o quella" and "La Donna E Mobile", and everything else. He's not a dirty, wicked Duke like Dieskau did it or robust and Italian playboy like Pavarotti or souave like Domingo, but his is a straight-forward, no-nonsense, technically satifsying account. Kraus is past his prime but you could never tell. His voice is well preserved and is in amazing shape. He sings with a lighter voice and without the more bombastic characterizations, but this is why it's so great. It's refreshing to hear such an entirely different animal.
Julius Rudel championed Beverly Sills in many recordings and his is a very European and charged performance, dynamic, but also sensitive. The opera has a combination of dark tragic overtones and the bel canto "showiness" and Rudel is expert at bringing out every texture. The sound quality is modern and crisp. The price is affordable and there is also an even cheaper "Highlights" recording so if you want to hear another Rigoletto you could still own the abbreviated version of this one. It's a fine Rigoletto. It may not be the best but it's outstanding."
Roberto | SF, USA | 08/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I second to what the "five stars" reviewers have said. This is a very powerful recording. Except for Pavarotti, this recording beats the Sutherland/Milnes/Pavarotti/Bonynge on every level. I may even go far and say that it is one of the best Milnes' recordings ever (he is in much better shape than in the Bonynge recording). The best Gilda I've hear on the record is Renata Scotto on the Kubelik recording (although I cannot recommend this recording solely because of DFD). Sills shines, but her voice lacks some clarity in certain moments. As for Kraus.. Well, he was 60 or 70 when he recorded this and he sounded better than many tenors I see nowadays on their forties. Kraus may not be as metallic or deep as some other tenors, but the freshness of his voice is extremely pleasant. Ramey is a treat. But it is Rudel who is on command here. He brilliantly leads the "performance", enhancing the drama and the subtleties of the score. I sense that everybody in the studio enjoyed making this recording. Another great EMI recording from the 70s."