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Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto
Piero Cappuccilli (Rigoletto), Ileana Cotrubas (Gilda), Plácido Domingo (Il Duca di Mantova), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Sparafucile), Elena Obraztsova (Maddalena), Hanna Schwarz (Giovanna), Kurt Moll (Il Conte de Monterone), Luigi di Corato (Marullo), Walter Gullino (Borsa), Dirk Sagemüller (Il Conte di Ceprano), Olive Fredericks (La Contessa), Anton Scharinger (Usciere), Audrey Michael (Paggio), Vienna State Opera Chorus, Roberto Banaglio (chorus master), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini (conductor)
Recording: Musikverein (Grosser Saal), Vienna, Austria (September 1979) – 119'32
Deutsche Grammophon 483 5605 [2 CDs remastered from original recording and 1 Blu-ray pure audio disc] – (Distributed Universal Music) – Notes in English, German and French – Libretto in Italian, English, German and French

There is really not much to say about this recording except that it is a welcome re-release of a beautifully engineered recording by a terrific cast at the peak of their careers under one of the absolute masters of the style.

One indicator as to the overall vocal quality: Kurt Moll as Monterone. It is a brief role, but he thunders the curse , “la maledizione”, that haunts Rigoletto for the rest of the work. The opera has a weak link if this isn’t memorable.

Note the recording date: 1979. This was some 14 years after Carlo Maria Giulini had last conducted a live opera performance because he had become so disenchanted with stagings that did a disservice to the operas (and this was before the trend to deliberately undercut the intent of the composer). His Verdi discography is rather short; this case demonstrates that quality more than makes up for a lack of quantity.

One wonders whether the singers were at all intimidated when they were asked to participate – not that Giulini had a tyrannical reputation. His standards were exacting, and in a studio situation they had time to get things right. The result is exhilarating. One of the peaks from the great era of the studio recording.

Michael Johnson




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