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Verdi;Giuseppe Rigoletto [Import]

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5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Sung, Movingly Staged Rigoletto Dec 16 2006
Format:DVD
I am generally not terribly fond of operatic stagings that blur the original intent of the work, and in particular I am unalterably opposed to the kind of senseless Eurotrashing that one so often sees in German and Austrian productions; the Salzburg Festival is a particular offender in this regard. We in America are probably not as familiar with the great opera house in Barcelona, the Teatre del Liceu, as we should be, but there has been a spate of productions coming out on DVD that, for me at least, have proven that this house is one of the great ones. And in this production from the Liceu one could say that there has been some degree of Regietheater taking over. But this production staged by Graham Vick and designed by Paul Brown is exceedingly effective. This is not a pretty 'Rigoletto' but then the opera's story isn't a pretty one, although traditional stagings tend to mute this by playing down Rigoletto's callousness as Jester and playing up his tenderness as Gilda's Father. Further, Gilda is often portrayed as a completely innocent and pure woman who is simply a pawn in the plot. This production makes her a more knowing young woman than is generally the case, a young woman who wants to break out of her sequestered environment in Rigoletto's claustrophobic house.

The sets suggest a kind of abstract environment in which the Duke's court is a sterile, cold and cynical place where the Duke's numerous women are simply part of the furniture (almost literally) and the Duke's cynicism is played up as a result. Rigoletto's padded leather chair symbolizes both a sardonic imitation of the Duke's throne and yet a comfy home haven. The brutality of the people in the opera is emphasized.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brutally honest "Rigoletto" that excels in every way Oct. 29 2006
By Toni Bernhard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
If you want a kinder, gentler "Rigoletto," this may not be the production for you. It's as if the director is examining the underbelly of the all the characters. Even Gilda, although still sympathetic, doesn't make her initial entrance as the innocent bird-like creature we're used to. That said, this production excels in every way: the performances, the conducting, the direction, the sets and costumes.

As the Duke of Mantua, Marcelo Alvarez is a revelation. His interpretation of the role has deepened since his 2001 Covent Garden performance (also on DVD) where he is essentially arrogant and full of raging hormones. Here, he's all that and more: a demonic, cruel bastard. It's the best interpretation of the Duke I've seen. (If Rudy Maxa could hear Alvarez's sarcastic and bullying rendition of "Questa o quella," he'd stop using it as the bouncy theme music for his "Smart Travels" TV show! I'll never again be able to relate to that song as fun and frivolous.) Alvarez's tenor voice just rings out throughout the opera. He sings the bel canto-style "Parmi veder" beautifully, but we can still hear his self-centeredness underneath the sentiment. And he performs "La donna e mobile" right in our faces, as if the Duke knows this tune is destined to become an opera cliché. What a brute.

Carlos Alvarez is superb as Rigoletto. I've never seen a role so well-studied. He appears to have a specific intention behind every word, every note, every move. His voice is powerful and expressive. In "Corteggiani, vil razza," by the time he gets to "Give an old man his daughter back," our heart is breaking for him. His deformity is no longer wretched for us to look at - it's just his outward physical appearance. Inside, he's just another parent suffering over a child.

I'd never heard of Inva Mula before, but she has an especially full-sounding and strong voice for a lyric soprano. She takes a different approach to Gilda. Yes, she's devoted to her father, but she's not as innocent initially as she's usually portrayed. You can tell from her first duet with Rigoletto that she wants a life of her own. I think it makes her character more realistic. She's an equal participant the lover's duet with the Duke. She's her own woman in "Caro Nome," seeming at times to flirt with the audience as if we were a stand-in for the Duke. I've never seen this famous aria performed in this way; she's no chirping bird, that's for sure. It definitely works for me. At the opera's end, the director wisely has Rigoletto lift the dying Gilda into a chair during their final duet which allows her voice to project the final moments of her life out into the audience. It makes for a riveting and powerful end to the opera.

The conductor, Lopez-Cobos, makes the right choices throughout. Two examples. The fast orchestral pace of the first scene gives the impression that events are spiraling out of control, something only the audience and Rigoletto sense by the time the scene is over. Later, the conductor's lively, "not a care in the world" orchestration upon Rigoletto first seeing Gilda is incredibly jarring after the decadent and sinister scenes that have preceded it. Lopez-Cobos' approach serves to remind us that this is an opera of stark contrasts - between love and cruelty, between goodness and depravity (Rigoletto himself manifesting all these traits at one time or another during the opera). This production presents these contrasts in the most compelling and honest manner I've seen. I don't think you'll find a better "Rigoletto" on DVD.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good singing, ugly sets Dec 28 2006
By figaretto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I am glad I purchased this dvd because of Carlos Alvarez and Marcelo Alvarez, both of whom I enjoy very much. The Gilda, Inva Mula, was good also. She has a very focused voice, and although she doesn't have tons of fireworks, she is quite pleasant to listen to and her acting is quite acceptable.

Carlos Alvarez has a very focused, low baritone voice which unfailingly impresses and cuts through the orchestra, however the lowness of the voice seems to make the high notes come hard. For the most part, he executes them beautifully, without yelling or wavering. His acting is good and he is probably the most satisfying Rigoletto singing today.

Marcelo Alvarez was fine in this role as normal, although occasionally a little off his mark. When he got relaxed, he did some wonderful singing. He held a long note at the end of 'La Donna e Mobile' and the orchestra just cut right in on him. Bravo to him to try to make the show exciting and poo on the conductor for cutting him off. He of course, didn't get much of his deserved applause as the music was continuing on. He is heavy in this dvd and would look so much better with some weight off.

The Sparafucile was a little unsteady. The Monterone seemed pretty good but better in his second part than in his first. The Magdalena was very pretty but her voice had no focus or was quite small - it was lost most of the time she sang.

Now the sets and costumes: They are the real downfall of this dvd. They are just ugly. Rigoletto is made to wear a rubber head-wound thing that makes his head look all deformed and scabby. He also has to wear a complete upper body rubber suit covering even the arms which gives him both the hump and all sorts of nasty sores. (He takes his shirt off in his first scene with Gilda) The body suit is not very realistic for dvd, since you can see the neck hole and it is obviously a rubber shirt. It's also pretty unrealistic that any rich duke would have a court jester or 'favorite' who is SO repulsive, he appears he could easily give you some sort of disease. Plus, it's a wonder Carlos Alvarez did not have a heat stroke during these performances. By the second act, sweat is dripping out of the rubber headpiece more than one drop per second.

The sets and costumes seem to be quasi-modern but Rigoletto still wears a fairly traditional jester's outfit, which doesn't make too much sense. I have no problem with a modern setting and it's possible if the director would have just made the decision to go all the way modern, some of the ugly clutter could have been cut out of the sets. I did find the rest of the costumes just fine except perhaps the brightly colored masks the courtiers wear as they kidnap Gilda - they were too distracting, as was Rigoletto's costume. The sets are very unaesthetic for the most part, with the Liceu stage being turned around and around again. I have other dvds from this opera house and I must say, they do love to turn that stage. I find it annoying and dizzying. There are also a couple symbolisms, such as at the beginning of the opera, women are lined up around the outside of the circular turning wall along with the duke, the party going on inside the wall; and later the women are actually hanging on the circular wall, the duke's bedroom being inside the wall. Yeah, we get it, the women he conquers are many - really dumb.

So that's it - really decent singing with terrible sets and costumes.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Sung, Movingly Staged Rigoletto Dec 16 2006
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I am generally not terribly fond of operatic stagings that blur the original intent of the work, and in particular I am unalterably opposed to the kind of senseless Eurotrashing that one so often sees in German and Austrian productions; the Salzburg Festival is a particular offender in this regard. We in America are probably not as familiar with the great opera house in Barcelona, the Teatre del Liceu, as we should be, but there has been a spate of productions coming out on DVD that, for me at least, have proven that this house is one of the great ones. And in this production from the Liceu one could say that there has been some degree of Regietheater taking over. But this production staged by Graham Vick and designed by Paul Brown is exceedingly effective. This is not a pretty 'Rigoletto' but then the opera's story isn't a pretty one, although traditional stagings tend to mute this by playing down Rigoletto's callousness as Jester and playing up his tenderness as Gilda's Father. Further, Gilda is often portrayed as a completely innocent and pure woman who is simply a pawn in the plot. This production makes her a more knowing young woman than is generally the case, a young woman who wants to break out of her sequestered environment in Rigoletto's claustrophobic house.

The sets suggest a kind of abstract environment in which the Duke's court is a sterile, cold and cynical place where the Duke's numerous women are simply part of the furniture (almost literally) and the Duke's cynicism is played up as a result. Rigoletto's padded leather chair symbolizes both a sardonic imitation of the Duke's throne and yet a comfy home haven. The brutality of the people in the opera is emphasized. And although I am rarely shocked by operatic stagings, I have to say that I let out a gasp of disbelief when, in Act III, Rigoletto savagely pummels the sack that he thinks contains the assassinated Duke (but that we, the audience, know contains his dying daughter). Carlos Álvarez, in addition to singing in a ringing Verdi baritone, acts the part of Rigoletto with such skill that he is utterly believable.

Inva Mula, a soprano unfamiliar to me, very nearly steals the show. She is a beautiful young woman who portrays both the naïve daughter and the impassioned lover with credibility; add to that her ringing soprano voice, capable of the delicate coloratura of 'Caro nome' and the searing passion of Acts II and III with great skill. Marcelo Álvarez is effective as the Duke but he doesn't really command the stage as much as one might like. The voice is beautiful and has more than enough squillo for the part. He manages the final offstage 'La donna è mobile' with real pathos.

Julian Konstantinov as Sparafucile gets off to a rocky start but improves discernibly as the opera moves along. Stanislav Shvets is a woolly-voiced Monterone and frankly doesn't come across as the figure of doom that is required. The Georgian mezzo Nino Surguladze makes a smashing Maddalena, both physically and vocally and more than holds her own in the scene with the famous Quartet. The rest of the cast is more than acceptable. I particularly liked Mercè Obiol as Gilda's duenna Giovanna.

Jesús Lopez-Cobos is surely the best-known Spanish maestro these days and he is absolutely the master of the proceedings in the pit. His tempi are just, his transitions are seamlessly managed, and he breathes with his singers. The orchestra and chorus of the Liceu are magnificent, the latter also carrying out Vick's complicated stage actions admirably.

It happens that I watched this DVD a few hours before I listened to a Saturday Met broadcast of 'Rigoletto' (and with Carlos Álvarez again singing a fine Rigoletto) and must say that the Liceu performance outscores it in all departments (particularly the leading roles, not counting Álvarez).

Scott Morrison
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad singing, bad taste stage production Dec 2 2006
By J. Espinosa Ihnen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Let's begin with the sunny side of the show. Hearing is much better than looking at this DVD. Marcelo Alvarez can sing the Duke, without much elegance (his costumes doesn't help much in this regard), but I would say he's good at it. The other Alvarez, Rigoletto, does a fairly good job from the standpoint of a singing actor, and delivers lots of power and intensity, though IMHO his voice cannot be considered a beautiful instrument. Inva Mula is the star of the show, she sings with intensity and ringing power, portraying a much more strong character Gilda than the usual. Sparafucile Konstantinov is awful in Act 1, but gets better in Act 3, where he appears to manage a Techno-Bar-Whorehouse. Sister Maddalena Surguladze is quite hot. Lopez-Cobos and the Liceu forces deliver standard, decent performance.

Now the dark side. Stage director Vick presents us not the renaissance court in which Verdi inspired (a too "obvious" layout?), but a strange place instead, difficult to locate in space-time, where everything is somewhat unpleasant, or just plainly ugly. Vick's success on the point is complete: this is the ugliest Rigoletto I've experienced. Bad taste floods the stage, and our attention is permanently distracted towards unimportant but sordid details. Let me tell you about.

Poor Rigoletto, in addition to be a hunchback, suffers from neurofibromatosis (remember the Elephant Man?), so his head is badly deformed also, and some bloody tissue hangs around his right eye... Yeah, you don't want to look at Rigoletto's close ups, believe me. In Act 1 duet with Gilda, he pulls his shirt away so you can watch his naked hump (a huge one), and then his daughter gets a sponge and some water and tenderly washes it (yes, the hump). And so on. Monterone appears on Act 2 not between two guardians, but surrounded by five or six "cortigiani", who are laughing and playing their swords against him, like a bunch of naughty boys. Thus, his imposing personality and his tremendous effect on Rigoletto is lost. Finally, when Sparafucile gives Rigoletto the bag with Gilda's severely wounded body inside, Rigoletto repeatedly punches the bag, hard, very hard, with fists and feet! So it's a miracle how can she still sing "Lassu in ciel" before dying.

Widescreen picture is rather low-definition, sound image is OK. Dolby 5.1 and DTS will throw to your speakers every damned bump or thump generated on the stage, so put them away and stick to PCM Stereo.

If you're looking for a serious, heart touching, no-nonsense Rigoletto on DVD, you're out of luck. MacNeil at the Met could still be the best one around, and that's to say nothing interesting came along in the last 30 years. Let's keep on waiting.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad sound and production May 28 2007
By jjbraham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I had high hopes for this Rigoletto. First of all, after seeing Inva Mula's excellent Mimi in Madrid's La Boheme, I expected very much. Sad to say, this was not the case, since she doesn't have the vocal agility to cope with the part and just screams her way out of some parts.

Second, the production and the direction was not interesting at all. The sets are incredibly boring and the camera work just as bad. Never was I drawn into the opera.

Third, the sound was awful. This is one of those productions where the sound "engineers" believe that since the voice is the most important aspect of an opera, why let the music distract from it? And so the orchestra is recorded so low it could well be in an adjacent building instead of the opera house, barely audible, lest it should intrude in the voices. Do they have any idea of how it sound live? They should definitely take a look at the recent Opus Arte productions.

It's a shame for Carlos Alvarez Rigoletto is excellent and Marcelo Alvarez Duke is also very good. Still, look elsewhere.
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