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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have been getting more into Verdi recently and thought it might be fun to start a series of threads on people's favourite recordings of the operas of his maturity, starting with Rigoletto. I know we've done something like this before but it's always good to do these at regular intervals as new people are joining.
Rigoletto is based on Victor Hugo's 'Le Roi S'amuse' although the censors caused the King to be relegated to a Duke.
There are some must hear recordings out there. Which ones are your favourites and what do you recommend?
 

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It's not one of my favorite operas, but there are a few recordings I like:

Callas/DiStefano/Gobbi/Serafin: https://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Rigoletto-Giuseppe/dp/B000002RY6

Sutherland/Cioni/MacNeil/Sanzogno: https://www.amazon.com/Rigoletto-SUTHERLAND-CECILIA-ACADEMY-SANZOGNO/dp/B00000425O

Scotto/Kraus/Bastianini/Gavazzeni: https://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Rigoletto-Ivo-Vinco/dp/B005FGMBLA

Hallin/Gedda/Hasslo/Ehrling: https://www.amazon.com/Rigoletto-Nicolai-Gedda/dp/B000025UR3

Doria/Vanzo/Massard/Etcheverry (in French): https://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Rigoletto-Giuseppe/dp/B000009IKN

Streich/Schock/Metternich/Fricsay: https://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Rigoletto-Streich-Metternich-Kammerchor/dp/B01AXL1IL0

The last one is in German, and the Audite is OOP, but it's also available on other labels.

The most important factor for me is the singer in the title role.
 

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The most important factor for me is the singer in the title role.
This is one of my favorite Verdi operas, and the Rigoletto performer is also my most important consideration, and the reason I find most recordings pretty disappointing.

My favorite by a pretty significant margin is the Molajoli, with Stracciari/Capsir/Borgioli. Stracciari is by far the finest Rigoletto, excellent in the legato sections, the big declamatory moments, a great vocal actor and really the standard against which the other Rigolettos should be evaluated. A 1930 recording, so the sound is a little boxy and remote, but the voices come through clearly enough, and to me, the sacrifice in sound is worth it for Stracciari's performance.

My main two alternates, from the sonic spectacular era of the 1950s, is the Questa, with Taddei/Paghliughi/Tagliavini and the Cellini, with Warren/Berger/Peerce. Both are maybe a little stronger overall cast than the Stracciari, but with some sacrifices in the lead performance (although both Taddei and Warren are still very excellent in their own rights).

Next would be the Serafin with Gobbi/Callas/Di Stefano. Gobbi is good in the declamatory sections but less good in the legato sections, and sometimes I just want to grab him and shake him and tell him to just sing. Callas doesn't really work for Gilda, although she certainly sings well and is in good voice. I'm never Di Stefano's biggest fan but he works better as the Duke than in many of his other Verdi recordings.

After that comes recordings I like certain things about but can't really recommend completely. The Gavazzeni with Bastianini/Scotto/Kraus has some nice moments, Bastianini has incredible highs but also some pretty bad lows (basically anytime he has to sing with legato) and Scotto is pretty shrill in this recording. The Kubelik with DFD/Scotto/Bergonzi is maybe my favorite recording. That is if you can accept DFD as Rigoletto--I can at times but it's a struggle to ignore the DFD'isms. Bjorling's an excellent Duca in the Perlea but Merrill isn't the vocal actor you need for a great Rigoletto, and Peters can pull off the Caro Nome but not the drama.
 

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I tend to agree with howlingfantods comments and his recommendations. I love Stracciari as Rigoletto, and perhaps the more complete recording is Kubelik's.

However, for new audiences, I would rather recommend a Bluray/DVD. Or look in youtube for a performance. This one with Bruson, Andrea Rost and Alagna is on the nice side. Also, you can try a Nucci performance, with encores and all that:

 

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It's not one of my favorite operas, but there are a few recordings I like:

Callas/DiStefano/Gobbi/Serafin: https://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Rigoletto-Giuseppe/dp/B000002RY6

Sutherland/Cioni/MacNeil/Sanzogno: https://www.amazon.com/Rigoletto-SUTHERLAND-CECILIA-ACADEMY-SANZOGNO/dp/B00000425O

Scotto/Kraus/Bastianini/Gavazzeni: https://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Rigoletto-Ivo-Vinco/dp/B005FGMBLA

Hallin/Gedda/Hasslo/Ehrling: https://www.amazon.com/Rigoletto-Nicolai-Gedda/dp/B000025UR3

Doria/Vanzo/Massard/Etcheverry (in French): https://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Rigoletto-Giuseppe/dp/B000009IKN

Streich/Schock/Metternich/Fricsay: https://www.amazon.com/Verdi-Rigoletto-Streich-Metternich-Kammerchor/dp/B01AXL1IL0

The last one is in German, and the Audite is OOP, but it's also available on other labels.

The most important factor for me is the singer in the title role.
The Fricsay recording with Metternich and Streich is my favourite Rigoletto. It's not OOP in Germany, perhaps collectors from abroad can order it here:

https://www.amazon.de/Rigoletto-Berlin-1950-Fricsay/dp/B000W87LN4/ref=sr_1_3?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1504037565&sr=1-3&keywords=rigoletto+fricsay
 

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I used to love the Gedda, Grist, McNeil recording, for a canary-fancier Rigoletto. McNeil had a great big voice, and I saw him fill the Teatro Municipal with that vozeirão in Rio de Janeiro in 1972.

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I tend to agree with howlingfantods comments and his recommendations. I love Stracciari as Rigoletto, and perhaps the more complete recording is Kubelik's.

However, for new audiences, I would rather recommend a Bluray/DVD. Or look in youtube for a performance. This one with Bruson, Andrea Rost and Alagna is on the nice side. Also, you can try a Nucci performance, with encores and all that:

Schigolch , is this ever released on commercial DVD as far as you know?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It was Rigoletto that first introduced me to opera. I saved up my pennies as a lad and bought the Solti recording with Kraus, Moffo and Merrill. It cost all of four pounds (old currency before decimalisation) which was a small fortune to me. I know the record store had to order it. It came in a big box with a very nice large booklet (how unlike today) and a libretto. I played it over and over again.
The LPs have long since gone but I have it now on CD. It is extremely well cast, with the three principles giving really good performances but spoiled a bit by Solti's tendency to rush the reflective moments. It's very exciting though.

The Callas / Gobbi is a classic. Di Stefano is the best Duke on record imo. Might be better sung Rigoletto but not more characterful. Recording shows it's age but so what? Callas is magical as Gilda.

The Scotto/Kraus/Bastianini/Gavazzeni strikes me as a bit ordinary

I also have the Sinopoli which I must confess I have not yet come to like particularly. But will hear it again sometime.
 

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The Solti with Merrill, Moffo and Kraus was my first Rigoletto too - yeah, those RCA Soria Series box sets were magnificent objects! - and I still like it. Gorgeous-voiced Moffo always sounded more sexy than innocent to me, but there's really nothing wrong with that: Krauss's timbre has never greatly appealed to me, and Merrill doesn't wring the last drop of pathos out of his part, but there's solid singing and acting all around. Solti's occasional hard-drivenness doesn't bother me as much in this opera as it sometimes does.

The Serafin with Gobbi, Callas and Di Stefano achieves a higher level of drama, but less beautiful singing. Callas is in good voice and gives us such a uniquely artful imitation of an innocent young girl that I have to love her for it even if she doesn't fool me for a minute. "Caro nome" is exquisitely felt and ends with one of the greatest trills ever recorded. Di Stefano makes an excellent, rakish Duke, and Gobbi is his expected self, dramatically imaginative and powerful, and penetrating though rather wooden of tone; I always enjoy him more when I can watch his brilliant physical acting (which fortunately we can on YouTube in excerpts from an RAI film of the opera).

About the 1930 Molajoli I have mixed feelings. Riccardo Stracciari, one of my favorite singers, here in his 55th year and generally acknowledged to have been the finest Rigoletto of his generation, is simply a paragon in the title part, vocally and dramatically. The depth and brilliance of his tone is stunning to hear, his legato is impeccable, and he alone makes this recording a library essential. Dino Borgioli is a lyric tenor of marvelous refinement; his superb legato and mezza voce create an effect if anything too delicate for the Duke, but it's certainly a pleasure to hear a tenor whose vocal ease and control would startle today's audiences. For Mercedes Capsir, unfortunately, I can't summon much enthusiasm; she isn't bad but lacks simple vocal stature, becoming a bit blatty at high pitch and volume, and she fails to project the ethereality and poignance that the end of the opera requires.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Just re-listening to the Sinopoli recording. Yes it is pretty good and very well recorded with three good if not terribly characterful or principles. But very sung which counts a lot on disc. Sinopoli sets lively tempi but knows how to relax. And listen to Gruberova in 'Care Nome'. Not Callas but who is?
 

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I used to love the Gedda, Grist, McNeil recording, for a canary-fancier Rigoletto. McNeil had a great big voice, and I saw him fill the Teatro Municipal with that vozeirão in Rio de Janeiro in 1972.

View attachment 97106
This was my first Rigoletto too. I love Gedda. And Grist sings like an angel.
The standard cuts for the time are taken which I don't appreciate.

I like this one a lot because it's complete and the conductor takes time to smell the roses.
And it doesn't have Domingo or Pavarotti. YAY!!
You know me, I prefer slower tempi.

 
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The Solti with Merrill, Moffo and Kraus was my first Rigoletto too - yeah, those RCA Soria Series box sets were magnificent objects! - and I still like it. Gorgeous-voiced Moffo always sounded more sexy than innocent to me, but there's really nothing wrong with that: Krauss's timbre has never greatly appealed to me, and Merrill doesn't wring the last drop of pathos out of his part, but there's solid singing and acting all around. Solti's occasional hard-drivenness doesn't bother me as much in this opera as it sometimes does.
There is a lot of good sounding singing on this from Merrill and Moffo, but I think these roles expose more than usual how unvarying that good sound production can be from those two performers, and how limited their vocal acting skills are.

Kraus doesn't normally appeal to me either but I think he works better for the Duke than for most roles. I'm never totally sure how sympathetic Verdi really wants the Duke to be--one of my major problems with the Giulini, the other really popular recording, is that Domingo is far too heroic and sympathetic for the Duke. Kraus sounds like a spoiled noble, Domingo like a sincere knight.

ETA: I get what you're saying about Capsir, but it's worth it in my book for Stracciari's performance. And she's not actually bad, she's just not got a world-class voice, but she knows her part and commits to the performance. I prefer an honest committed performance from a mediocre instrument over a poorly thought out or skated through performance from a world class instrument. Like Sutherland for example, whose two recorded performances I personally find pretty awful other than the nice coloratura she provides in the Caro Nome.
 

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Just re-listening to the Sinopoli recording. Yes it is pretty good and very well recorded with three good if not terribly characterful or principles. But very sung which counts a lot on disc. Sinopoli sets lively tempi but knows how to relax. And listen to Gruberova in 'Care Nome'. Not Callas but who is?
Moffo, Cotrubas, Sutherland to name a few.
 

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We know from contemporary reviews, that the voice of Capsir was rather small, but well projected. She did was considered a world class light soprano back in 1928. In the Rigoletto's recording, she is showing a good legato singing, as well as very nice phrasing.

Of course, she was not Joan Sutherland, but she was a good Gilda to Stracciari's Rigoletto:

 

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This was my first Rigoletto too. I love Gedda. And Grist sings like an angel.
The standard cuts for the time are taken which I don't appreciate.

I like this one a lot because it's complete and the conductor takes time to smell the roses.
And it doesn't have Domingo or Pavarotti. YAY!!
You know me, I prefer slower tempi.

I listened a lot to the first Sutherland recording. Didn't know or care about the cuts. Sutherland was in better voice, though still moony, but I was too green and didn't notice. I liked Cioni (still do) and McNeil too. Why is Hvorostosky' s picture on the cover?
 

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My favorite Gilda live at SF Opera in the 70s or 80s was Patricia Wise: a voice of good size, creamy, good high notes, and dramatically alive. Matteo Manuguerra was Rigoletto, Peter Dvorsky the Duke.
 

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The Gobbi recording is my favourite and I feel there are two things essential in this opera. A baritone who can do pathos in the title role and singers who can both sing the music of Gilda and the Duke in line with the characters. (I find a showy tenor makes for a good Duke rather than a subtle stylist.)

My second favourite (and I can't believe nobody has mentioned this one) is the Milnes, Sutherland, Pavarotti for the reasons given above. The reason why it's second to the Gobbi is because Callas and Serafin make more of their respective contributions than Sutherland and Bonynge.

N.
 
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