Verdi: Rigoletto

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: BBC Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Verdi
WORKS: Rigoletto
PERFORMER: Gavanelli, M Alvarez, Schafer; ROH Chorus & Orchestra/Edward Downes; dir. David McVicar (ROH, 2001)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0829 D
David McVicar’s finely observed production of Verdi’s revenge tragedy opened the Royal Opera’s 2001-2 season, and despite Michael Vale’s grey and anonymous set looks mostly very good in this film of the show. Tanya McCallins Renaissance costumes are particularly splendid. It’s a dramatically vivid version, with plenty of detail in the interaction between the characters and a stage orgy that for once looks credible.

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The cast is a strong one: Marcclo Alvarez makes a plausible and vocally stylish Duke, and though Paolo Gavanelli may not possess the richest of Verdi baritones he employs it to powerful effect. Christine Schafer’s Gilda is cool but correctly sung, while Edward Downes’s conducting is masterly. The smaller but vital roles of the hired assassin Sparafucile and his temptress sister Maddalena are memorably undertaken by Eric Halfvarson and Graciela Araya.

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There are some worthwhile extras. The booklet contains cast biographies, photos and a synopsis (by McVicar). Included on the disc are a substantial interview with the director, who reveals a keen understanding of the drama, a 17-minute tribute to Verdi in the centenary year of his death, and another synopsis, illustrated with stills from the production. George Hall