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VERDI: Rigoletto

spacer Machaidze, Irányi; Nucci, Demuro, Spotti; Teatro Regio di Parma Orchestra and Chorus, Zanetti. Production: 
Samaritani. C Major/Unitel Classica 723208, 141 mins., subtitled


The latest in C Major/Unitel Classica's "Tutto Verdi" series from the Teatro Regio di Parma is Rigoletto, as performed in 2008 in the traditional but by no means timid 1987 production by Pier Luigi Samaritani. Samaritani's student Stefano Vizioli served as stage director, and Samaritani's striking sets and costumes were "revised" by Alessandro Ciammarughi. 

We're treated here to a particularly fine staging. The Regio is not huge, but these sets project towering grandeur and an oppressive world dominating Rigoletto and Gilda. Samaritani makes use of forced perspective in the scenes at the Duke's palazzo, and the crumbling, multi-level inn of Sparafucile and Maddalena is a place of looming horror. But Samaritani also knew when less was more, particularly in the sinister first meeting of Sparafucile and Rigoletto, which takes place on an ominously darkened stage with each character in his own pool of focused light. (The lighting designer was Franco Marri.) Samaritani did not softpedal the nastiness of this sordid story; he even made effective use of full-frontal nudity by having the Duke strip the gown off Monterone's humiliated daughter in front of her father and the entire court. 

Although Leo Nucci has not always been an exciting singer, his Rigoletto here is a revelation. Then sixty-six, he was more than up to the part's vocal demands; once past some early wobbling, his voice firms up, and his acting poignantly delineates the jester's rage and helplessness. He may lack the mellifluous sound we expect from the best Verdi baritones, but he uses his voice wisely, and his diction is exemplary. Clear diction is also an attribute of Francesco Demuro as the Duke, as are a highly expressive face and loads of charm. His tenorino sound, however, does not always fall pleasingly on the ear, and a rapid-fire tremolo often creeps into his middle range. Nino Machaidze is a gorgeous Gilda with a ripe, rich tone who gives a sensitive but not simpery characterization. All she lacks is a real trill. In a moment that pretty much sums up the Italian opera experience, she and Nucci encore their "Sì, vendetta" duet in front of the curtain when they come out for their Act II bows. (And Nucci breaks character, smiles, and bows repeatedly during the applause after his big Act II scena.) Marco Spotti's Sparafucile is missing the oily, sepulchral sound this role calls for, but his presence is grim and chilling. As Maddalena, Stefanie Irányi throws herself about the stage gymnastically, as if to make up for a voice that seems almost non-existent. 

Massimo Zanetti occasionally takes some slowed-down tempos but never slackens the tension in Verdi's clockwork-tight score. spacer


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