This Rigoletto, filmed live at the Zurich Opera House in 2006, has three strong leads to recommend it. In the title role, Leo Nucci fully represents all of Rigoletto’s character traits and range of emotions—the hunchback’s lancing wit, fearfulness, and self-loathing when we first meet him and later, his obsessive need for revenge. Both Rigoletto’s sense of righteous triumph when he believes he’s got the Duke dead in the bag and his inconsolable grief at the drama’s end are palpable.
An acclaimed and versatile conductor, Carlo Maria Giulini started his musical studies as a violinist, attending the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. He studied conducting with Bernardino Molinari at Santa Cecilia and Alfredo Casella at Accademia Chigiana in Siena. After graduation, he joined the Augusteo Orchestra in Rome as a violist. As an orchestral musician, he came in contact with the great conductors of the time, including Strauss, Mengelberg, Walter, Klemperer, and Furtwängler.
The opera was based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo and is perceived to be the first of Verdi’s great masterpieces of his mid-to-late career. This performance features a top-class cast, led by Nino Machaidze and Leo Nucci.
Nucci simply owns the role of Rigoletto…a master-class in vocal acting…Machaidze is the very embodiment of Gilda. Her characterization is simply marvellous…[she] has a lovely full tone - this is no canary Gilda - with 'Caro nome' poised and emotional…The supporting cast is excellent…I was highly impressed by Massino Zanetti's conducting. (International Record Review)
This extraordinarily powerful 1983 production may be the best-sung performance by Luciano Pavarotti on DVD, but when acting values are counted in, Ingvar Wixell manages to outshine the tenor star. Verdi gave the Duke two of Italian opera's most brilliant arias ("Questa o quella" and "La donna e mobile"), but he gave the deformed jester Rigoletto a depth and complexity of character that is reflected in music of great variety and enormous emotional impact: the cruel mockery of the opening scene, the self-doubts inspired by his dialogue with Sparafucile, the paternal anxieties and final despair at his daughter's sad fate, and the burning, self-destructive thirst for revenge.
For many opera fans the favourite Rigoletto on dvd remains the 1983 film version starring the young Pavarotti as the dashing Duke, his irrepressible singing and high spirits contrasting sharply with the gut wrenching wretchedness of the jester played by Wixell almost to perfection,and of course the inimitable Gruberova as Gilda the jester's daughter.(For me this together with the Domingo/Migenes 'Carmen', and the Domingo/Stratas 'La Traviata' represents the best of opera films). Now comes the 2006 production of Rigoletto, staged by the Zurich Opera House with Chorus and Orchestra wonderfully conducted by Santi, recorded in High-Definition and transfered to an Arthaus Blu Ray disc of breathtaking quality. I'm not exaggerating. Even by today's Hi-Def standards, the picture quality here is simply stunning: inky blackness, realistic night time scenes accurately rendered with proper light and shadow effects, atmospheric blue lighting, and the sets and costumes show up in vivid pop-up colours with razor sharp contrasts… By Chhan Thuan Kiat