on July 17, 2004
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.
on July 16, 2003
The countless positive reviews say it all. This is the definitive recording of Verdi's greatest opera. The singing is golden age.
We have the greatest coloratura of all time singing Gilda. Then there's the "king of the high Cs" Pavarotti singing the Duke. And the gigantic baritone/tenor voice of the great Sherril Milnes. Milnes is a baritone with the range of a tenor. And he hits some jaw dropping high notes here...chest tone. That alone would be fab, but then Pavarotti hits a top D that is the best I've ever heard. Not to be outdone, La Stupenda throws Cs, Ds, and Es, here, there and everywhere. The most powerful and gorgeous high notes from any Gilda for sure.
One comment about some people fixating on Sutherland sounding plush and rich for the teenage Gilda. I absolutely disagree. The diva used her flute voice plenty here, sounding very girlish in "Caro nome". And what about all those 40-50 year old divas like Tebaldi, Callas, Albanese, and Scotto singing the 15 year old Madame Butterfly. They all sound older than Dame Joan here, but that's consider acceptable? I say that's double standard. Dame Joan's Gilda is ethereal in its trancendental beauty. She is THE golden age Gilda without a doubt with perfect coloratura execution and perfect trill.
I repeat that this is the absolutely best sung Rigoletto available. I have heard others, but I always come back to this one. An essential Rigoletto that every opera buff must own if he wants his collection to be complete. Terrific!
on March 6, 2004
This recording is a classic and very beautiful. The highlights are definitely Pavarotti's vivacious duke and Milnes' Rigoletto. This is the best Duke Pavarotti ever recorded and even though he's lacking the sunny charm of di Stefano (The Duke on the legendary Callas-Recording) he sings the role incredibly well. Milnes was still great in those years, he sounded far better in Puccini and Verdi than in Belcanto. Of course he doesn't dig in as deeply as the unsurpassed Tito Gobbi (Truly the greatest Rigoletto of all time) but he definitely deserves his fame. Bravo Milnes! As for Sutherland, I think her earlier Gilda is better, by far. Here Sutherland sounds too matronly for a girl, also her middle has already this veiled, mushy sound. Still great singing but her "Caro nome" on "The Art of the Primadonna" outshines this easily. Not the best Rigoletto there is but a good one. Don't miss it AND the set with Tito Gobbi and the sublime Gilda of Maria Callas. Both are great.
on October 2, 2010
This is a great 2 CD set of Verdi's tragic opera Rigoletto. The quality of the sound is superb. The singers are wonderful. Pavarotti is at his very best. A great purchase.
on February 20, 2004
This recording of Rigoletto is the first opera I ever listened to. Luciano Pavarotti may be the best Duke on records because he is playing himself in a way. Plus the timbre of his voice is so recognizable. The style of the role just comes so naturally to him. La Donna e mobile is fantastic. Sherill Milnes is a fantastic Rigoletto. He even throws in a high C flat at the end of the opera. The aria Cortigianni is very musical and emotionally intense from him. My favorite part of this recording has to be the confrontation between Rigoletto and Sparafucile. Talvela had one of the most impressive bass voices of all time. You can picture the late Talvela who was six feet seven inches playing this part. The low F at the end of the duet is wonderful. The only minor drawback to this recording is the Gilda of Joan Sutherland. The diction needs to be much clearer. One can forgive a lack of diction on high notes. However it needs to be there otherwise. She is good in Act III because she has the voice size to keep up with the large orchestra. Arturo Toscanini always used a heavier voice for Gilda because of the big orchestration in Act III. The role is problematic because of Act III. A good Gilda is Cortrubas on the recording conducted by Giulini. The orchestra is fantastic on this recording. The backstage sounds are spectacular in Act III. This recording is probably the best known recording of Rigoletto. I recommend it.
on September 12, 2003
This recording is sheer magic!! A bit of interesting history. Richard Bonynge was one of the earliest person who "discovered" Pavarotti. When Pavarotti was still young, Decca did not really want to sign him on because the management thought that they already had enough opera singers in their stable. It was Bonynge and Sutherland who insisted that they wanted to work with him. At that time, Sutherland carried enormous clout because she had become immensely famous and her recordings sold like hot cakes. She insisted that she wanted to sing with Pavarotti and eventually, they managed to persuade the Decca management to sign him on. Richard Bonynge is legendary for his understanding of voices. He was the one who pushed sutherland into Bel Canto when she was thinking of going into Wagner. Here he shows that he not only understand voices but that he can conduct!! This Rigoletto really cooks!! We have Sutherland, Pavarotti and Milnes all in peak form. And the Decca sound is simply superb with plenty of "atmosphere". A sheer magical performance. A legend to be set beside Klemperer's Fidelio, Solti's Ring, Giulini's Don Giovanni, Kleiber's La Traviata, Karajan's Il Trovatore and Bohm's Tristan and Isolde. By the way, if you haven't heard any of these sets, teleport yourself to the nearest music shop and get them.
on July 25, 2003
But mostly I remember the young Pavarotti. The voice so sweet, the high notes so easy and full of ring. He is the definitive Duke. This is his best example of his art of the primo tenore and show future generations what a true tenor is supposed to sound like.
Not far behind is La Stupenda's gorgeous voice and her bag of coloratura tricks including a perfect trill and mind boggling high notes, up to E in alt. Her voice is always a joy to hear, and she is the greatest coloratura of the century.
Sherrill Milnes does some amazing singing as Rigoletto. His huge voice is almost Wagnerian, and a proper contrast to the sweet, innocent sound of Sutherland's Gilda. But don't underestimate La Stupenda. Her's is a soprano of great power, she had even sung Wagner on stage in her earliest days. Her contribution to the celebrated Quartet is the one of the highlights of this Rigoletto.
This is my favorite Verdi opera along with Travatore. And there is no doubt that this Rigoletto in without peers.
on June 10, 2003
It's hard for me to express what I feel about this RIGOLETTO. It was the first opera recording I ever bought. It introduced me to opera, to Verdi, and to Milnes, Sutherland, and Pavarotti, who have since become three of my favorite singers. Now, three years later, it is still one of my top favorite opera recordings. Richard Bonynge leads a performance that (as Fred Plotkin writes in OPERA 101) "gives one a feel for the drama as well as the music" (and this is what the finest opera recordings do). Sherrill Milnes' large, rich, warm, wide-ranging baritone voice -- in its very prime here -- expresses all the emotions of the title character, one of the most conflicted in all of opera. Rigoletto is both a loving father and a bitter, vengeful man; both of these sides are conveyed by Milnes, who can shade his big voice down to a tender piano tone, as well as let it all out in a full, dramatic outburst. His scene before the courtiers in Act II in particular demonstrates his ability to do this. Joan Sutherland sings beautifully as Gilda, her shiny, silvery voice, perfectly even from top to bottom, suggesting the innocence of Rigoletto's daughter. Singing Gilda's music must have been child's play for this supreme coloratura soprano; her sizeable voice (much more so than most "coloraturas'") has the power for the more dramatic sections of Acts II and III ("Si, vendetta" and the storm trio). Sutherland's "Caro nome" (both this one and the one on her much earlier "Art of the Prima Donna" album) is the one by which I judge all other renditions. Pavarotti is in his prime. His gloriously effortless singing conveys the charming, carefree nature of the nevertheless evil Duke of Mantua. Martti Talvela is ideal as Sparafucile: it is essential for this villianous "hit man" to have a really "black" bass voice, which Talvela has. The recorded sound is vividly atmospheric, particularly in Act III (I can just picture the scene in Sparafucile's seedy inn!). To sum up, this RIGOLETTO is a recording in which everything -- the principals, the supporting singers, the conducting, and the sound -- is right.
on June 5, 2003
Everyone is talking about Dame Joan, who is wonderful. But it is Pavarotti who is the superstar here. I have about 50 cds of the "King of Tenors" and this "Rigoletto" along with the "Daughter of the Regiment" and "Primo tenore" are Pavarotti's best recordings.
As the Duke, he has many famous tenors of the past who can challenge him. But to me and many others, it is Pavarotti who ultimately come out on top in this Rigoletto. Kraus and Gedda are fine, but it is Pavarotti who has that sweet shining voice with the brilliant top and youthful midrange. I've also heard Gigli, Bjoeling, and Caruso's recordings of the Duke's famous arias, and those too don't compare to Pavarotti. When Luciano hits a high D, it really rings. Bravo.
Dame Joan is almost as great. She has a lovely voice and takes on some amazing high notes. I heard some fan call them
high Es, I'm not so sure. I do know that when Pavarotti and Dame Joan ended their duet with "Addio", that climatic high note was just heavenly. Sounds like a D to me. It is magic how these two singers compliment each other so well. They don't try to hold one high note longer than the other as some other famous divas or divos do. They, along with Mr. Milnes make this Rigoletto the best around.
I haven't forgotten Milnes. He really has a big voice, and it shows here in this Rigoletto. His lucious baritone actually attacks a high B flat here. That's astounding for a voice of such size and deepness. I think that Milnes is the best Rigoletto of the ones I've heard. His finale with Gilda is truly moving. Along with Pavarotti and Dame Joan, he makes this the best Rigoletto to get.
Oh, yes, there's also a conductor. He's good too. As a huge fan of Rigoletto, I will say that this is one of the best conducting of Verdi's masterpiece I've heard.
Hey, what can I say? This Rigoletto is a winner. Five stars.
on May 24, 2003
Dame Joan and Luciano are true giants of opera history. And I mean that they are the so fat that they fill out the entire stage and you can't see anyone else. I can't imagine Milnes carrying Sutherland away in a bag in the last scene. The bag must have been the size of a blimp. But I have to admit that her singing of Gilda's music is inpeccable and incomparable. What a voice! And that goes for Pav also. He was borned to sing the duke.
Despite their obvious unpleasant appearance, their voices are simply too beautiful to be true. Thus, I'm a big fan of their's.
Luckily, on record, you can't see them, so all you hear is lovely sound.
I don't understand all that talk about Callas here. She is a no talent. And even when she was Prima donna, she was never had a nice voice, it is ugly, to say the least. That is the truth and if it hurts some people they better get over it.
Callas does look good on stage. But to compare her Gilda to Sutherland's in these two Rigoletto performance is a joke.
Sutherland/Pav is the best Rigoletto in my book. And Rigoletto is my favorite opera.