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Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto
Carlos Alvarez (Rigoletto), Inva Mula (Gilda), Marcelo Alvarez (Duke of Mantua), Julian Konstantinov (Sparafucile), Nino Surguladze (Maddalena), Chorus and Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Jesús López-Cobos (Conductor), Graham Vick (Stage Director), Paul Brown (Set and Costume Designer)
Filmed live at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, Spain (2004) – 130'
Arthaus Musik DVD #109141 or Blu-ray #109142 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Notes in English, French, and German – Titles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Catalan

This enthralling production of Verdi’s perversely compelling opera steams along like a runaway train - except the headlong ride is under the firm control of the marvelous Jesús López-Cobos.

The overall style is highly expressionistic with design features (sets and costumes by Paul Brown) that conjure up the period of its setting or composition, but with overtones of a lurid dream. Carlos Alvarez is made up to look as if he is rotting from the inside out while his costumes and gestures make him look like a cross between Nijinsky’s Petrushhka and Hoffmann’s Kleinzach (his feet actually go clic-clac). At the same time a rounded character emerges - Alvarez is truly one of the era’s great – and chillingly real – Rigolettos.

Marcelo Alvarez (no relation - Alvarez is a common Spanish surname) deploys his ardent spinto voice to great effect as the impetuous Duke. The character’s surprising sensitive side is beautifully expressed in ”Parmi veder le lagrime”. Inva Mula also sings beautifully as Gilda while portraying the character’s desperation.

Julian Konstantinov oozes profound unwholesomeness as Sparafucile, while Nino Surguladze avoids Maddalena’s usual femme fatale posturing and is bluntly matter-of-fact in her willingness to murder a stranger if it means saving the Duke. Director Graham Vick also manages to imbue vivid characterization among the many comprimario roles and in the chorus. The notes refer to “the drama’s tremendous brutality”; it certainly is on full display while the camera’s every shot adds up to a convincing whole.

Graham Vick’s production was also seen in Florence, Madrid and Palermo. This issue is one of Arthaus Musik’s Legendary Performances series, and this is one that fully deserves the description.

Michael Johnson




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