I was never much of an admirer of Sherrill Milnes. I found his singing to be one diminsional. He also had an odd habit of singing very slightly under pitch.
However, there is something about his performance here that simply blows past any objection I might have. It is almost palpably powerful. He doesn't emit what I find to be beautiful sounds. But there is nothing "beautiful" about this distorted character's story.
This also reminds us of why we all went nuts when the young Luciano Pavarotti burst upon the scene. He was surely something!!
I don't know how often Joan Sutherland sang Gilda in the early days of her career, but it was a rarity in her prime decades. As was often the case with Dame Joan, this recording was preceeded by a series of stage performances of the work. She always benefitted with some stage time in a role before recording it. Especially a role she hadn't sung in a while.
To that end, she sang Gilda prior to this recording at the Met, not during the regular season, as I recall, but during a summer Verdi festival, or something like that. Frankly, she blew the roof off the place. The critics went bonkers, one saying "Where has she been hiding this role? She is the perfect Gilda".
Perhaps a little more mature than the usual chirper in the role, and perhaps not as "diction-perfect" as someone else might be. But THAT VOICE!
And this recording, in my opinion, captures what everyone was so ecstatic about perfectly.
Oh yeah, and Richard Bonynge does a great job also.
This may not be the only "Rigoletto" in your collection, but it should not be the one left out.