ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
PERFORMER: Nucci, Machado, Mula; Verona Arena Chorus & Orchestra/Marcello Viotti;dir. Charles Roubaud (Verona Arena, 2001)
CATALOGUE NO: DV-OPRIC
2001 was unsurprisingly Verdi year at the Verona Arena, where this Rigoletto was recorded live. The production is traditional though not especially lavish — the costumes arc drab and the semi-abstract settings anonymous. The vast stage of the Arena is arguably not the ideal venue for this essentially intimate drama -Verdi once wrote that he conceived it as a series of duets — and the enormous numbers of dancers in the opening scene prove distracting. Too much of the production is of the stand-and-deliver type that rarely elucidates text or music.
That said, the exponents of the three central roles are vocally strong, if scarcely subtle. Leo Nucci has the measure of the tormented jester and his performance combines epic malice with vulnerability. Inva Mula is an accomplished Gilda, and Aquiles Machado a bright-toned if broad-brush-stroke Duke of Mantua.
Worthy support from Mario Luperi’s lantern-jawed Sparafucile and Sarah M’Punga’s sultry Maddalena, though not all the small roles are so strongly cast. One or two moments of weak ensemble apart, Marccllo Viotti conducts an energised account of the score. Other than subtitles, a booklet synopsis and tiny note on the amphitheatre, there arc no extras. George Hall