This is the Rigoletto by which I judge all the others...
Rachel Howard | ocklawaha, Florida United States | 04/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cioni is very good as the Duke, though my personal favorites in this role are Jan Peerce and Luciano Pavarotti. His voice is very lyrical and sweet, which may be one of the reasons so many girls in this opera fall for him. It strikes me that he captures the libertine in the Duke: a man who really doesn't care for anyone else other than himself. Joan Sutherland often captures a lot of flack for her diction. Personally, I don't find it to be very bad at all, and I am a stickler for wanting to hear the words as well as the music. She does sound mature for Gilda, even this early in her career, but maybe Gilda was a mezzo, anyway. Many quite young women have deeper voices, so this does not throw Sutherland out of character for me. (Am I the only one, or does Dame Joan sound like a mezzo who became a soprano to anyone else out there besides me? The sound is heavenly, but there's a truly mature coloration in her voice I hear in few other sopranoes, even the great dramatic ones like Crespin and Nilsson.) Joan Sutherland does throw the character's emotions out there for the listener to hear, make no mistake about that. I can feel her humiliation after her abduction and subsequent seduction. Whatever your feelings may be about her suitability for the role, she sounds magnificent- no problems hearing this Gilda, even live in the opera house. Her voice shines here and adds a grand touch to this recording. Speaking of grand touches... there is the voice of Cornell MacNeil, one of the most magnificent baritone voices ever to grace any stage anywhere at any time. In his prime, MacNeil's voice was full and dark in the lower to upper middle, while it rang out with a tenorish ease that is breathtaking at the top. Was MacNeil bland as Rigoletto? No. Not at all. Was he as histrionic as some? No. Leonard Warren took a few dramatic liberties that MacNeil eschewed, as did Gobbi, Taddei, and Granforte... but listen closely. You'll hear it clearly- the anger with the courtiers, the fear of Monterone's curse (Wonderfully sung by Fernando Corena!), the horror at losing Gilda, and the relief at getting her back alive. Listen to the moment when Rigoletto realizes the Duke is alive. I can almost hear it in his thoughts: "If the Duke LIVES!- then who is dead in this bag?" Bland? No! Try exciting, full-voiced, with an exquisite messa di voce, and pianissimo work to die for. This is the voice of a father, above all else. A human being, with frailties, hatreds, and undying love. Listen to MacNeil as he reminisces about Gilda's mother. These duets have always defined the role of Rigoletto for me and Cornell MacNeil is the man I think of first. Also, his vengeance duet with Dame Joan is incandescent, as is his final cry of `the curse!'.
Sanzogno's conducting is dramatic, but very much on the lyrical side. I like it that way myself. I'd recommend going to amazon's UK site. This recording is still available there. The sound transfer is excellent, by the way. Other Rigolettos? Warren's recording with Peerce and Erna Berger, who sounds very girlish; the Bonynge conducted version with Pavarotti, Sutherland, and Milnes is superb as well. Milnes has another version with Beverly Sills, but I'm not very familiar with it. If I remember correctly, Alfredo Kraus is the Duke, and I know he's superb in this role, having heard him in the Solti version with Moffo and Merrill."
Surprisingly vital and well sung
Music lover | Philadelphia | 09/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have come to really appreciate this Rigoletto with repeated hearings. I am even surprised to find myself liking it better than the later Decca version with Sutherland, Pavarotti and Milnes and even putting it at the top of the list of the note complete recordings. Conductor, orchestra and chorus are Italian, and that makes a huge difference in matters of phrasing, rhythmic details, and handling of the text. The fact that the style is so idiomatic gives the performance an immediate leg up on much of the competition. Other conductors may do more with the score, other orchestras play with greater accuracy and sheen, but the loss s such second nature naturalness with the music and text, is palpable.Sutherland is extraordinary. The voice is full, clear, floating, amazing. Her portion of the first Rigoletto/Gilda duet is a case in point. The high tessitura of Gilda's part are breathtakingly beautiful and touching in themselves. Her Caro nome is supreme, and unique among her versions, includes an amazing trill on high D flat in place of the stacatto reiterations usually heard. Her characterization is well thought out and clearly projected. This is some of her best work on records.Cornel MacNiell is a fine Rigoletto and upholds the American tradition of fine Verdi baritones. The voice is big, bold, beautiful, and used very dramatically. A gripping performance.Renato Cioni was the biggest surprise. Sutherland's early recordings usually featured second string supporting casts and Cioni's Edgardo in her first Lucia was decent but no great shakes. Here, however, he is in his element. While no Pavarotti, Bjorliong or DiStefano, he is certainly quite fine. Easy legato, musical and stylish phrasing, charming and vivid characterization and easy high notes. Quite good.Siepi and the rest in the supporting roles are also fine. The whole affair is very well integrated, presented and sung. Singing and drama are certainly given their due, and it's exciting to boot. Warmly recommended."
Prime Joan Sutherland
Music lover | 08/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is vintage Joan Sutherland. Recorded in 1960, it offers the great dame in the freshest of voice. The tone is bell-like in clarity and the coloratura and high notes mind boggling. She really was the supreme singing machine back in those days. Cioni is very good as the duke, perhaps not as ringing in tone as Pavorotti, but nonetheless, a gorgeous voice. Truely a set that you must have!!"
Music lover | 06/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sutherland sounds so innocent and girlish here. EXactly as the role should be sung. She sings the most beautiful "Caro nome" I've ever heard. And her tone all through the performance is the best I've ever heard from her. No droopiness, just pure gold in tone qality.
She also interpolated the most massive and brilliant high E's I've ever heard here.
This is far superior to the later version of Rigoletto with Pav, and better than the one with Callas.
Nothing beats a young Sutherland."
Carlos Quintero | Caracas, Venezuela | 03/19/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
Rigoletto is my favorite Verdi's Opera and this version has been my absolute reference for ages. Everything here is in the perfect place. Beautiful singing, powerful orchestra playing and masterly conducting by maestro Sanzogno. It includes the best vocal staff conceivable: the best Rigoletto ever, Cornell McNeil, an awesome Gilda in Joan Sutherland who is at the top of her powers; and finally the most intriguing, sensual and interesting Duke i've ever listened performed by Renato Cioni, quite different from the powerful but more frontal and predictable Pavarotti. This is a landmark in the whole Verdi discography and a safe recommendation.