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102 of 103 people found the following review helpful
Rigoletto--film or staged version ?April 20 2009
Chhan Thuan Kiat
- Published on Amazon.com
For many opera fans the favourite Rigoletto on dvd remains the 1983 film version starring the young Pavarotti as the dashing Duke, his irrepressible singing and high spirits contrasting sharply with the gut wrenching wretchedness of the jester played by Wixell almost to perfection,and of course the inimitable Gruberova as Gilda the jester's daughter.(For me this together with the Domingo/Migenes 'Carmen', and the Domingo/Stratas 'La Traviata' represents the best of opera films). Now comes the 2006 production of Rigoletto, staged by the Zurich Opera House with Chorus and Orchestra wonderfully conducted by Santi, recorded in High-Definition and transfered to an Arthaus Blu Ray disc of breathtaking quality. I'm not exaggerating. Even by today's Hi-Def standards, the picture quality here is simply stunning: inky blackness, realistic night time scenes accurately rendered with proper light and shadow effects, atmospheric blue lighting, and the sets and costumes show up in vivid pop-up colours with razor sharp contrasts. The audio is no less exemplary, with the DTS HD MA 7.1 presenting a wide and believable soundstage within which the singers' voices are clearly 'imaged'. No balance problems here. In fact, this disc is technically a near reference recording which will warm the hearts of audiopliles and videophiles everywhere. But what about the performance itself? Well, here Leo Nucci steals the show, his rich and dark-toned voice and excellent vocal characterisation both satisfy and convince. In Act 1, he is the cynical court jester and is nasty cockiness personified. Come Act 2, his is the voice of the enraged father hell bent on vengeance against his Duke and in the final Act we hear the sobs of a broken man cradling his dying daughter Gilda. The downward metamorphosis is heartbreaking and the human degradation devastating. Elena Musoc whilst not in the same league as Gruberova in coloratura, sings beautifully and in many ways fills the role of the tragic daughter better. Of course the cherry in the pie of the film version is Pavarotti's high octane rendition of "La donna e mobile", whereas here the Duke(Piotr Beczala) is much less flamboyant and tosses off the famous aria in an almost casual style without much of the spotlight, which suits me fine, but most fans would find Pavarotti's approach irresistible. Overall the film version gives an impression of more dynamism and visual excitement, in part due to the relative freedom of film-making versus the physical confines of the traditional stage, but this by no means suggest that the Zurich version is somehow static or staid. Far from it. This version scores in its intimate telling of a harrowing tragedy and the depths of human suffering, is as well acted and sung as the other without the superstar names, and in the video and audio department is streets ahead of the older film. This superiority greatly enhances the viewing pleasure. Even if you have the film version, I would still highly recommend this Zurich production to you. Truly this is a 5 star disc. Enjoy!!
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Among the most perfect performances and recordings of an opera I have seenFeb. 3 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
This is too brief to be called a review, and I intend to come back with something more substantial. But for the moment.
We are in a period where directors far too often want to modernize the setting; sometimes it works, other times it is terrible misjudgement. Then there are productions geared to display a star performer. And so often producers/directors forget that if the composer wrote a work in the form of an opera, it was intended to be seen, so the acting, both visual and through the singing, is an important part of the production. This has, in the past, not always been given its due.
Well in this production, none of these failings are present. First, let me say, a composer wrote his opera for the stage, and that is where it should be performed. This production boasts a cast of uniform excellence, where the beautiful singing of Verdi's great score rates among the very best. But the performers, soloists and chorus have been directed to fully bring out the dramatic aspects as well, i.e., to act as well as sing. Musically, both chorus and orchestra are in top form, under a conductor who has a full grasp of the total perspective of the score, both musically and dramatically.
Sets and costumes cannot be faulted, and all is enhanced by excellent lighting design. All of this gushing is due to the fact that it is rare to find all the elements of an opera production at such a uniformly high standard and unified so that not one thing stands out and hits you as "not quite right", and nothing emerges above the totality to warrant special praise. There are operas I have reviewed with enthusiasm, but few have created the impression this performance gives (and it isn't even one of my favorite Verdi operas).
The icing on the cake has been expressed in most of the reviews. If ever you wanted a demonstration disc for your Blu-ray, this is it. Most people are unaware that Blu-ray does not necessarily equate with stunning quality, and there have been Blu-ray releases that were little better than DVD, although this seems to have been a passing phase. But in this release we have Blu-ray at its best: unsurpassed clarity, the greater depth and subtlety of color that is another of the advantages of the format, and sound quality that is an audiophile's dream - and what better production on which to lavish these high standards.
Please forgive my gushing, but this is a near-perfect release . Watching and listening to it was literally a revelation, and provides a "you are there" experiience if viewed via a good projector on a 100" screen with sound facilities that can do justice to what is on the disc.
In my planned rewrite, I promise to try and stand back and review this much less emotively.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
PerfectionOct. 11 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
I've only recently been buying opera on blu-ray, and this is by far the best I've seen. Very often, when one sees contemporary opera on DVD, a viewer finds himself sitting through a "Euro-trash" version of the opera, where the director runs riot, ignoring the original intentions of the composer and librettist, and doing nothing except drawing attention to himself. But here is a Rigoletto that I imagine Verdi would have loved. Combined with exemplary audio and sound, it would be hard to give a higher recommendation to this disc.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A reliable but rather sanitised version without the gritty realism of McVicar's alternative and rather nasty conceptOct. 1 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
This review is of the specially priced issue of a previously issued full-priced disc. It comes with a great number of bonus samplers of other Arthaus releases so, in effect, this disc also acts as an Arthaus advertisement. It is important to be sure to buy the much cheaper version rather than the full-priced issue, which is still available, as the Rigoletto part on both discs is identical.
The performance is very secure with good solo singing by the experienced Leo Nucci as Rigoletto, Piotr Beczala as the duke plus two attractive female leads in Elena Mosuc as Gilda and Katharina Peetz as Maddalena. Laszio Polgar is a suitably dark Sparafucile. The other solo parts are also reliable as is the chorus.
The staging and production could be described as traditional and verging on the effective minimalist. The camera work is very clear and of good colour definition. The sound is presented in DTS 7.1 and stereo and is also very clear. The orchestra plays well under the firm guidance of Nello Santi.
For many this has proved to be close to the ideal performance, production and recording. There are others who disagree and have suggested that this is rather a routine performance with poor acting, only passable singing and generally dull. The full range of reactions is fully documented by many reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic.
I personally feel that this is better than just routine but, for me, it is all just a bit too clean - some might describe it as lacking in the necessary nastiness. This is not a nice story. The duke is amoral and presides over a dissolute court. Abduction and rape is commonplace (see Gilda's treatment) as is 'legalised' murder (see Monterone's fate) and contract killing (see Rigoletto/Sparafucile). Rigoletto himself takes previously full advantage of his 'privileged' position to taunt any who is not secure, even to the extent where the duke tells him he has over-stepped even his boundaries. Gilda herself chooses to sacrifice herself for a very doubtful cause which fails as we hear the duke blissfully singing unaware at the end.
Can such a scenario be found on the stage and on disc? The answer is 'Yes' and the recording is the McVicar concept at the Royal Opera. That too, is well recorded and is well sung and acted. I would hesitate to call it a traditional setting though as it is so corrupt but it is certainly of the correct period and oozes wickedness and venom. However, for me, the problem is the fast vibrato of Paulo Gavanelli who sings the title role of Rigoletto. His acting is fine but I do find the voice vibrato rather nasal or 'bleaty' at times and this is a problem for me. However, I should stress that this is my own personal response although it has been worthy of some comment from some reviewers. Some also have found the production rather too vivid for easy viewing. The opening court scene may be a bit strong for some tastes for example.
So there you have it. Buy this if you want a clean version of the opera in traditional staging but, for some tastes, just a little tame. Choose McVicar if you want an altogether earthier version which does not pull any punches but don't expect an easy night's entertainment.
I would therefore suggest, in view of the obviously divergent views about this disc, that purchasers need to try and sample it first. There are examples to hear on the web which may be helpful.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)
I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)
I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases... Keep up the good work! Thank you (UK review)
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
fine recordingFeb. 7 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a fine recording of this opera. The Blu-ray allows near theater levels of lighting -- night appears like night. The video direction was solid -- the camera movements and cuts did not detract from the flow of the opera. I do not know music well enough to comment on the technical quality of the singing -- but all of the performances were satisfying. The conductor, Nello Santi, conducted from memory The sound was great -- good dynamic and frequency range. I saw this DVD on a 53 inch sony sxrd rear projection television in subdued light. It was an excellent experience.