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Which ensemble performs the most satisfying rendition of "Bella figlia dell 'amore""

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Giuseppe Verdi – Rigoletto quartet (Bella figlia dell' amore) | Genius




Ferruccio Tagliavini - Lina Pagliughi - Giuseppe Taddei - Irma Colasanti



Alfredo Kraus - Anna Moffo - Robert Merrill - Rosalind Elias



Plácido Domingo - Ileana Cotrubas - Piero Cappuccilli - Elena Obraztsova


Act 3: “Bella figlia dell’amore” (Beautiful daughter of love)

SUNG BY THE DUKE, MADDALENA, GILDA, AND RIGOLETTO

The Duke and Maddalena are conversing inside the home of Sparafucile. Gilda and Rigoletto are outside watching this conversation through a window. The Duke is using his charms to seduce Maddalena, who is not impressed by his flattery. Gilda is heartbroken that her beloved “Gualtier” has betrayed her. Rigoletto is reassured about his plot for revenge.

Link to complete libretto - Italian with full English translation -

 

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For a quartet, this is to an important extent a tenor showpiece, and the tenor very nearly makes or breaks it. But a poor conductor, it seems, can ruin it too. I'm sorry to find that the ensemble of Moffo, Elias, Merrill and Flagello is spoiled by Solti's frantic tempo, which trivializes fatally music that isn't exactly profound to start with but which should at least please in the way it counterpoints lyrical phrases against that cackling mezzo-soprano. There's no reason why this talented bunch of singers shouldn't turn in a fine performance, except that here they literally haven't the time to do it. This was my first recording of Rigoletto and my introduction to the complete opera. I thought it was fine fifty years ago, but I wouldn't be eager to renew my acquaintance based on this excerpt.

I've thought of Tagliavini as a lyrical stylist in the Schipa mold, but he fails to live up to that here, with strained and blasted high notes. He makes the whole thing hard to listen to; against his yelling the other singers hardly matter. It's the latest of these recordings that presents the music in the best light, with Domingo phrasing the opening solo nicely and not sounding as if he's strangling himself later on (the thing does lie cruelly high, and no one sings it easily). The other singers are fine, and Giulini, unlike Solti, knows how to conduct Italian opera. This was the only performance of the three that I could enjoy, at least as long as I could keep the ghosts of Caruso and Galli-Curci at bay.
 

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What a difference the conductor makes and Solti, who has a fine group of singers, totally ruins thier efforts with his ridiculously fast and rigid tempo. I've always thought he was a terrible Verdi conductor and this only confirms it. It's a pity because he has some fine singers on many of his recordings, but I don't like any of his Verdi.

Questa may make no revelations, but I prefer his more relaxed tempo. Unfortunately Tagliavini's strained singing rather ruins this version, which leaves me with Giulini, who assuredly does know how to conduct Verdi. His singers are a fine bunch too. As Woddduck has pointed out, it's the tenor who will make or break a performance of this Quartet and Domingo does a fine job, phrasing nicely and not sounding too strained by the high tessitura. Cotrubas is ideally sweet and plaintive as Gilda, Cappuccill, who probably has the least to do, fine as Rigoletto and Obrasztsova, for once, doesn't oversing and pull focus. Thet get my vote.
 

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Wow. This is not an easy task.
Let's start by having to discard the Tagliavini "solo" because unfortunately he took over and that's all you hear. That was no quartet. Being that he has never been a favorite of mine I have to scratch this one even though the best soprano far and away was the gorgeous sound of Pagliughi. What a stunning voice she had.
Next comes a well constructed quartet with Kraus singing beautifully but I could hardly hear Moffo's lovely voice, which was a shame. It seems in all of the offerings Rigoletto's voice is not heard clearly. At least in this one they all sang together.
But then came the sound of a tenor that even shocked me. I never realized what a beautiful voice Domingo had until the comparison of the 3 tenors. His is the kind of tenor voice that appeals the most to me. Cotrubas' voice also sounded really lovely. Again Merrill, as with the other Rigolettos, took back seat when it came to hearing them. But for me, the Domingo/Cotrubas group takes the gold, with a special rose for the best voice of them all -- Pagliughi.
 

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It pains me to choose Domingo, because Kraus sounded awful, never mind Tagliavini (he was in Callas’s second Lucia recording, not so great there). I saw Domingo too many times over the years and I can’t listen to him anymore. But his recording is the better one in this contest.
 

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One of the greatest pieces of music Verdi, ever wrote! I’ve always thought it one of the very greatest among his concerted pieces along with the council chamber scene from Simone Boccanegra. I believe that concerted pieces, with or without chorus, are among the greatest examples of Verdis genius, one of the reasons I think I need to return to Falstaff because as I remember…may be wrong… There was a lot of concerted singing there. Like pizza, I’ve always felt even a below average version of the quartet as being a very enjoyable thing (excepting of course Domino’s😉🤓!) to my taste there are no below averages here. During the first half of the piece the tenor has great prominence . I’ve always liked Tagliavini but there was always a quality in the production or sound that I couldn’t define… It makes him unique, but it has in most cases, a relaxed quality to it. That doesn’t work in the opening for me. I’m not sure what he’s doing there. I enjoy it, but I don’t hear how he’s seducing Maddalena. Domingo sounds more the long lined Adonis and Krause, the more energized charming predator and I enjoy Krause the most. Of course he has the easiest top, and that matters a lot here. Taddei rules, as he often does! At the important introduction of soprano and mezzo the combination of Colasanti and Pagliughi make an uncommon distinction in character between Gilda and Maddalena and that quality never lets up for the rest of that version of the piece. I think great small ensemble, singing, in any kind of music, can divide for me into two separate approaches… One in which the blend is paramount, and you are struck with the perfection of the whole! The other is an approach in which individual parts and characters are extremely distinct, but somehow that individuality is blended into a magnificent whole! I feel that’s what accomplished in the first rendition. I enjoyed them all very very much but the Taddei group takes the trophy for me! I think it was a great rendition!!!
 

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What a difference the conductor makes and Solti, who has a fine group of singers, totally ruins thier efforts with his ridiculously fast and rigid tempo. I've always thought he was a terrible Verdi conductor and this only confirms it. It's a pity because he has some fine singers on many of his recordings, but I don't like any of his Verdi.

Questa may make no revelations, but I prefer his more relaxed tempo. Unfortunately Tagliavini's strained singing rather ruins this version, which leaves me with Giulini, who assuredly does know how to conduct Verdi. His singers are a fine bunch too. As Woddduck has pointed out, it's the tenor who will make or break a performance of this Quartet and Domingo does a fine job, phrasing nicely and not sounding too strained by the high tessitura. Cotrubas is ideally sweet and plaintive as Gilda, Cappuccill, who probably has the least to do, fine as Rigoletto and Obrasztsova, for once, doesn't oversing and pull focus. Thet get my vote.
Tsaras I know you’ve always hated Solti as a Verdi conductor, and I’ve meant to ask in the past… Why? Safe ground here because I’m not asking because I love his Verdi conducting. In truth I have never had an opinion about his Verdi conducting. To be perfectly honest, conducting has to be quite distinct in Italian opera before I notice it at all. On this piece I do, of course, recognize that he’s faster than the others but I didn’t find him hideously fast. I could understand it not being to someone’s taste, but I would not have thought the tempo capable of simply ruining the rendition. You use the word rigid in there, and I know you were referring to tempo. But in over all impact I have to say that, compared to Giulini‘s, I find his rendition less rigid….. considerably. I think he has orchestra and vocalists working together to breathe propulsion and pull back into those gorgeous tutti phrases towards the climax of the piece and I didn’t hear anything like that in Giulini, who I thought proceeded along at the same dynamic for everyone. I did find Soltis more interesting. Now this is not a gauntlet thrown at your feet. 😆🤓!!! and I am going to throw in here that once I took on the challenge of really listening for the aspirates that clearly interfere with yours and Wood ducks enjoyment of renditions. I have started to hear them more and I do understand why they bother you. Tell me about Solti!😁
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Alfredo Kraus - Anna Moffo - Robert Merrill - Rosalind Elias...

I freely - and fearlessly - make this decision even though in professional-level reviews Solti's conducting has been described as "relentless" - "propulsive" - "dynamic" and "charging (ever) onwards"... The word "breakneck" may also have been used but I greatly suspect that it was me that actually said that and not even I care what I say about anything and I'm actually me...

I prefer this version for all of the wrong reasons - Despite however many times that I may have heard it, I still keep eagerly anticipating that, at some point, the speed of the tempo is such that it will inevitably cause the quartet to turn into a runaway train that will jump the tracks... I know that I should turn away but I can't - It's fascinating to listen to...

I have so much respect for mezzo Rosalind Elias... She's desperately trying to maintain that consistent vocal cadence which the tenor, soprano, and baritone need to work off of to prevent themselves from tripping all over each other's lines while Solti is doing his level best to defeat her at every step of the way by adamantly refusing to adjust his conducting to their singing - I can visualize what this session must have looked like - Elias trying to keep a steady pace despite knowing that at some point one voice will be on time, one will be slightly behind, one will be slightly ahead, and the fourth will just stand there wondering if anyone will notice that they're not actually singing, they're only mouthing the words... They would not have been able to take their eyes off of one another for even a second as they needed visual cues to try to properly time their vocals as they couldn't possibly rely on what they were actually hearing from the orchestra.

I really should vote for Plácido Domingo - Ileana Cotrubas - Piero Cappuccilli - Elena Obraztsova in part one of this contest because they are the best sounding of the three quartets - the full complement of four are strong without at least one of them being either off their game or past their prime - confidently full-voiced - beautifully sung - superbly well-balanced with Giulini willing to adapt to his singers rather than forcing them to adapt to his conducting -

The vintage 1954 Questa conducted quartet - Ferruccio Tagliavini - Lina Pagliughi - Giuseppe Taddei - Irma Colasanti - has been universally well-reviewed and has often been mentioned as a worthy competitor to Gobbi - Callas - Di Stefano - which seems unlikely - to put it mildly - when based on the sound of the quartet in this contest - which, in its defense, is solely the fault of the sound engineer who should have done one of two things - move tenor Tagliavini further away from the mic or move the mic further away from Tagliavini - It's that simple - An organ grinder's monkey (or even his dim-witted understudy for that matter) would have had enough sense to stop the recording and say "Ferruccio, you stand in the lobby in front of the concession stand and, oh yeah, keep the door closed, you other three, stand on the stage and follow the blocking".

I've listened to other selections from this recording and can attest that they are far better balanced - significantly - than they are in "Bella figlia dell 'amore". I'll be doing a "Great Duets" contest in about six months time or so featuring "Figlia!" / "Mio padre!" and the Pagliughi/Taddei pairing should be a force to be reckoned with.

If my vote would have been a deciding factor in this competition I would have voted - Plácido Domingo - Ileana Cotrubas - Piero Cappuccilli - Elena Obraztsova -The Giulini recording was "best in class" in Round One but since my vote wouldn't change the outcome, I took the liberty of voting for Alfredo Kraus - Anna Moffo - Robert Merrill - Rosalind Elias because I enjoyed the high-flying trapeze act without a net approach that Solti took.
 

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Giuseppe Verdi – Rigoletto quartet (Bella figlia dell' amore) | Genius' amore) | Genius




Ferruccio Tagliavini - Lina Pagliughi - Giuseppe Taddei - Irma Colasanti



Alfredo Kraus - Anna Moffo - Robert Merrill - Rosalind Elias



Plácido Domingo - Ileana Cotrubas - Piero Cappuccilli - Elena Obraztsova


Act 3: “Bella figlia dell’amore” (Beautiful daughter of love)

SUNG BY THE DUKE, MADDALENA, GILDA, AND RIGOLETTO

The Duke and Maddalena are conversing inside the home of Sparafucile. Gilda and Rigoletto are outside watching this conversation through a window. The Duke is using his charms to seduce Maddalena, who is not impressed by his flattery. Gilda is heartbroken that her beloved “Gualtier” has betrayed her. Rigoletto is reassured about his plot for revenge.

Link to complete libretto - Italian with full English translation -

The tenor dominates this, at least to me, so I reduced the problem to which tenor I like best. I eliminated Domingo, because there is something muffled in his voice. Tagliavini has a very nice high note in consolaar. But I don't like how the vowels in "Bella figlia del'amore" are distorted, slightly changed towards "O". Kraus satisfied me better in those initial bars.
As for Rigoletto, I prefer Taddei to Cappucilli.

And the result is: no vote !

Edit: Ok, you guys persuaded me, that the admired high note by Tagliavini is actually strained, so scratch Tagliavini, Kraus is better. But I also now assign greater significance to the fact how I like Taddei, so no vote !
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The tenor dominates this, at least to me, so I reduced the problem to which tenor I like best. I eliminated Domingo, because there is something muffled in his voice. Tagliavini has a very nice high note in consolaar. But I don't like how the vowels in "Bella figlia del'amore" are distorted, slightly changed towards "O". Kraus satisfied me better in those initial bars.
As for Rigoletto, I prefer Taddei to Cappucilli.

And the result is: no vote !

Edit: Ok, you guys persuaded me, that the admired high note by Tagliavini is actually strained, so scratch Tagliavini, Kraus is better. But I also now assign greater significance to the fact how I like Taddei, so no vote !
Fair enough - Thanks for taking the time to listen and provide your commentary - @ScottK voted - Ferruccio Tagliavini - Lina Pagliughi - Giuseppe Taddei - Irma Colasanti - You would have been in good company standing beside him - and he's right about that Pagliughi/Taddei tandem as they will be fierce competitors - a force to be reckoned with - even in vintage '54 mono - in the "Great Duets" - "Figlia!" / "Mio padre!" contest that I'll be doing in several months time as that duet is significantly better recorded that the quartet which appears here.
 

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Fair enough - Thanks for taking the time to listen and provide your commentary - @ScottK voted - Ferruccio Tagliavini - Lina Pagliughi - Giuseppe Taddei - Irma Colasanti - You would have been in good company standing beside him - and he's right about that Pagliughi/Taddei tandem as they will be fierce competitors - a force to be reckoned with - even in vintage '54 mono - in the "Great Duets" - "Figlia!" / "Mio padre!" contest that I'll be doing in several months time as that duet is significantly better recorded that the quartet which appears here.
I was more tempted to vote for Kraus, if anything. We had a vinyl with Kraus ans Sills combination at home.

But my imprint version is Pavarotti & Sutherland. There was a TV series "The life of Verdi", made in Italy. The Slovak TV bought it and lip synched it very nicely. The end credits were always with the Rigoletto quarted with Pavarotti. Except of the last episode, which ended with Requiem. Have you guys seen it ?
 

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First I must speak up for my old friend Joe Green. Others might be sniffy about the musicianship here but each time I hear it I'm blown away. Must have seen Rigoletto 20+ times live and this is for me the pivotal moment (others say it's determined in the Act 1 curse). The characters are drawn together on stage and the genius here is they really are the essence of themselves whilst singing different lines to this beautiful, simple melody. It sets us up for the ending. Joe was a man of the theatre and for me this moment may just be his finest and amongst the very best in all the theatre I've experienced.

Saw Solti conduct many times at the ROH and in person it was never less than thrilling. Saw Kraus as The Duke and it was a stylish affair. He must have been in his 50's and he played it as less the young libertine and more the sly old fox. It worked.

However I am seduced by Domingo who has more colour here than he latterly had in the Theatre. Giulini is masterful, the balance is the best and it gets my vote.
 
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