An Excellent outing
Ted Zoldan | Los Angeles, CA, USA | 04/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Met in the 70's: was there a better spot for Opera? Here we have my Favorite Verdi Opera of all time, starring Three bonifide stars, two at the start of their careers, one nearing the end. We have at the Podium the young Levine, who does wonderful, if not exemplary work with the score. The Met Orchestra is top-notch, as always.
I have little to say about the production except that...it's the Met. Big, vibrant, and more than a little bit impressive, the sets and costumes by Tanya Moiseiwitsch are very beautiful to look at. But who goes out of RIGOLETTO humming the set? (Unless you see a really bad performance) Another key aspect of this LIVE FROM THE MET broadcast is the video direction of Kirk Browing, who makes a few close up where wide shots would be preferable, but mainly lets the cameras let the singer's dramatic talents shine.
And Shine they do. Watch Domingo's face as he realizes who the courtiers have kidnapped in Act Two. See the genuine feeling he puts into the act two aria: it's some of his best acting. He's in top vocal form here, the familiar big, souring tenor in perfect condition. Plus we get to see a tenor who looks as if he could slay the ladies as well as any Duke. Could you buy Gilda falling in love with Pavarotti? Domingo looks dapper, devilishly handsome, and comfortable in tights. My only regret (and it's a minor one) is that he does not take the optional high "D" in the cabeletta "Possente Amoure" (In which Levine, by the way, makes the traditional cut of the second verse) but the only two tenors to attempt that note on record are Pavarotti and Alfredo Kraus.
Ileana Cotrubas, the Gilda, is an unmitigated success. We see a Gilda come into the flower of womanhood, maturing into a woman ready to sacrifice anything for love. It's tragic and beautiful. Cotrubas had a gift possessed by few sopranos other than Callas: she was always able to seem spontaneous when turning on the dramatic talent, not with each move calculated like some other sopranos. This is one of her best outings: when not trying for high notes, her voices floats around your ears like butterflies, inducing sheer pleasure. The first act and is beautiful, marred slightly by some rather hollow-sounding high notes in "Caro Nome" and the father-daughter duet (with Ariel Bybee's strong Giovanna in attendance) which plagued her career in my ears. "Tutte le Festa" is perfect, however, and her work in the ensembles that end the third act is irreproachable.
Also very impressive are the two assassins: Justino Diaz and Isola Jones. Diaz's Bass-Baritone has a smooth, sly qualitly to it in the first act that perfectly matches the mysterious killer. In act three he is more violate and passionate, with some really stellar vocal acting thrown in for good measure. His sister makes a startling impression: Jones is a beautiful woman, perfectly believable as the seductress Maddelena: a striking, exotic singer. Her dusky Contralto is startling in its potency: sometimes I wonder at how low her voice goes in this performance. I'd also like to point out John Cheek, the best Monterone I have ever heard. His somber, noble stage presence (he seems miles taller than Rigoletto) is added by a booming bass that sounds a bit young for the role, but more than authoritative and frightening enough in his curse to make Rigoletto quake. The courtiers are fine, the Met's stalwart chorus and comprimarios, all in very good vocal form.
And what of Rigoletto himself? Cornell MacNeil, near the end of his career, is very hard to put down. His vocalism is rarely beautiful, and his acting is inconstant: One moment he is as wooden as a mannequin, the next insightful and moving. Take, for example, the moment of discovery of Gilda's body: it's fake and unconvincing. But the very next moment, his mummer of "ah, no, ah no" is heartbreaking. If there is a weak link in the production, it's his Rigoletto, but the weak link has several moments of brilliance. He does some really excellent acting with his body in acts two and three.
The picture is fine, but the sound is occasionally troublesome, especially in the first scene of act one.
All in all, I give this production high marks: 4 and ¾ stars, a quarter of for some of McNeil's vocalisms and the sound problems. I've rated it four stars just to be safe, though.
Very good, yet not definative
Spinto | ct | 03/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Rigoletto is a fabulous, wonderful, stupendous opera. And this is a wonderful production.
Domingo is wonderful, he is my favorite duke. He hates the role, he rarely performed it, an not only because he dislikes the Character. The role is the antipathy of Domingo's instrument. His rich, trumpety baritonal tenor, suits late Verdi, puccini, and veristic opera. His musical subtlety also allows him to sing mozart, and his gutz have put him in the ring as Sigfried, Lonegrin and the like. But the high tessitura of the Duke was killer for him. As a result he sings the part as it was meant to be sung. He escews optional high notes, and rubato (save in La Donna e Mobile where he takes the B). He sings with focus and intention, making the Dukes numbers part of the drama, rather than showpieces. his acting is superb.
Coturbas is an excellent Gilda. Just like Domingo, she avoids making her Aria Caro nome into a coloratura showpiece. Instead the piece is beautiful and moving, and never slows to an emotional halt. She looks innocent and beautiful, and is a superior actor.
Cornell Macneil has been treated rather poorly on DVD. Cornell's vocal prime was the late 1950's to the early 70's. Huge open tone and ringing high notes were a big favorite. In the mid 70's it became appearent that his tone was becoming far to open and that he was losing the core of his huge sound. As he refers to in the bonus interview he takes the summer of 77 off completely, to rest and study. This production see him in faltering voice, he cracks several times throughout the show, but flashes signs of brilliance, expecially on the top of his voice. Dramatically he is a real winner, but his alternate in this production, Sherill Milnes, would have been my pick for the Dvd.
Justino Diaz is a good Sparafugile. he plays an arisocratic villain who is calm and smiling, intstead of brooding and evil. His voice is not really Bass but Bass-Baritone, but he still is very good.
This is a great production and it is close to ideal. Definatley a good addition to an opera collection."
A Magical Rigoletto
Nathan | Ithaca, New York | 08/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cotrubas and Domingo: What an extraordinary chemistry these two artists generate when they are on stage together. How well and surprisingly their voices blend, considering Domingo's heroic ringing tenor and Cotrubas's creamy full voiced yet plangent soprano. Her voice seems to sit exactly on the note allowing every nuance of the composers intention to be expressed. She offers an extraordinary dramatic interpreation of the doomed Gilda, as fine an actress as you are likley to see on an opera stage. In the tradition of Callas, she seems to inhabit her charactor, both physically and emotionaly, and her vocalisation in Acts 2 and 3 is second to none. Quite ravishing.
This is a terrific production, and how long we have waited for its DVD release. Surely the Met's finest Rigoletto, a peerless cast and conductor, at the height of their powers.
Surely now the ravishing Met Traviata of a couple of years later with the same trio of Cotrubas, Domingo and McNiel will at last be available."
A Compelling Performance
David | Houston, Texas, USA | 01/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having been a fan of Rigoletto for many years, I ordered this DVD based mostly on Placido Domingo's participation. Having watched it now, I have found it to be a rewarding performance. Domingo's Duke is very gratifying. Macneil's Rigoletto is vocally weaker, but his stage presence is powerful. On the whole his performance is effective as Rigoletto. I'm glad to have the DVD and expect to enjoy it many times."