- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Arthaus Musik
- Blu-ray Release Date: September 25, 2012
- List Price: $9.99
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Although Rigoletto is considered a “middle” Verdi creation (twelve of his 30 operas followed its composition), it is a very mature work in every respect. Rightfully or wrongfully, this opera is often considered a one-aria work with the tenor’s “La donna è mobile,” being its big hit. Once you have seen the entire show, you will realize that there is a treasure trove of great vocal pieces for all of the principals. Arthaus Musik has released a 2006 Zurich Opera performance that appears on paper to be strongly cast and conducted. Veteran baritone Leo Nucci assumes the title role, while the Duke of Mantua is portrayed by Polish tenor Piotr Beczala (who was on the brink of stardom at that moment). Roumanian soprano Elena Mosuc, a regular at the Zurich Opera, covers the role of Gilda. Main supporting roles are well handled by Laszlo Polgar (Sparafucile, an assassin), and Katharina Peetz (Maddalena, Sparafucile’s sister). In the pit, we get maestro Nello Santi who, by the time of this production, had been conducting the works of Verdi for 55 of his 75 years. Director Gilbert Deflo, another veteran of the operatic stage, provides a fairly conventional setting with costumes that appropriate for the period of the Rigoletto’s premiere. For the most part, the ensemble work is decent and the pacing nearly perfect.
The story is a classic father-daughter tragedy. Rigoletto, a hunch-backed court jester, in the Duke of Mantua’s court, has a beautiful daughter, Gilda. She falls in love with the womanizing Duke who disguises himself as a penniless student. The Duke has Gilda abducted and then seduces her. Rigoletto, on discovering this shocking truth, vows revenge. He hires professional assassin Sparafucile to murder the Duke. However, in a final ironic twist, it is Gilda who is murdered as the opera ends.
Rigoletto is one of Verdi’s darkest operas, and this creates somewhat of a problem for the videographers as the first act, set in the Duke’s court is bright eye-popping rush of colors, while the second is undermined by the lack of clarity among the shadows. Close-up detail is decent while distant scenes are a bit on the soft side. The shot selection by the videographers is not very exciting and sometimes seems a bit random during the ensemble numbers.
While boasting a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, I found the vocal perspective to be more distant than I would have preferred, giving a significant tilt toward the orchestra. I am not familiar with the Zurich Opera House so I cannot comment on what the audience might have heard. However, for a home audience, the voices should have gotten a better deal, particularly since so much of the singing is excellent. As for the singing, tenor Beczala has the “ping” so vital to realize the Verdi style. Further, his Italian diction is quite good for a non-native speaker. Baritone Nucci was 64 at the time of this production and there is evidence of his vocal wear and tear that cannot be concealed. I was not familiar with soprano Mosuc who turns in a pleasant, but quite careful rendition of her signature aria, “Caro Nome.”
There are two hours of highlights from 45 opera, ballet, and documentary productions in the Arthaus Musik catalog. While this feature is heavily promoted on the disc cover, when you do the math, it is a series of three minute snapshots from each title-interest to publicists, yes, interest to viewers, questionable.
The Definitive Word
As you might expect, given the popularity of Rigoletto, there is a raft of DVDs. Nucci competes with himself in an earlier and vocally fresher performance from Il Teatro di Verona. Outside of an Opera Australia BD (which I have not seen), this is the sole high-res contender for this opera. In many respects, it is a very satisfactory performance with quite decent principals. While Piotr Beczala will not erase your memories of Pavarotti, Domingo, or Florez, he turns in a very good Duke, minus some of the comic relief, so relished by the competition. Nucci is a competent if less than emotion-generating hunchback. What gives this performance a boost is the loving hand of maestro Santi who lets the singers do what they do best, just sing. Cavils aside, given the incredibly low price of this disc, it will give enough enjoyment so warrant its purchase.
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