Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Nadine Sierra, Francesco Demuro, Andrea Mastroni, Oksana Volkova; Men of the Kaunas State Choir; Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra/Constantine Orbelian
Delos DE 3522
It is impossible to review this set without acute feelings of regret at the early death of Dmitri Hvorostovsky. In his early years I tended to find the voice creamy but unspecific; later on it may have lost a little of its sensuous allure, but Hvorostovsky grew immeasurably as an artist. This recording, made in July 2016, shows him at the height of his powers in the title role, revealing the full range of Rigoletto’s qualities – contempt and malice for the courtiers, tender but oppressive concern for his daughter, final rage and humiliation – with all the intensity Verdi required.
The conducting and the orchestra are not in the first rank, but the studio performance has the kind of authenticity which glossier accounts often lack. The Gilda of Nadine Sierra is a virgin, but leaves no doubt that she hopes to rectify that as soon as she can, so music that can sound insipid here takes on vigour and life, above all in Act III. Francesco Demuro’s Duke has all the necessary panache and superficiality, and the various cursing courtiers are all adequate, while the creepy scene between Rigoletto and Sparafucile, with its weird accompaniment, gives the piece a sinister dimension from early on. Maddalena, the sister of Sparafucile who doesn’t have much to sing but plays a fatal part in the action, is sung with ferocity by Oksana Volkova. There will no doubt be more tributes to Hvorostovsky’s star qualities, but they are unlikely to surpass this one.
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