PERFORMER: Richard Leech, Alexandru Agache, Leontina Vaduva, Samuel Ramey, Jennifer Larmore, Patricia Bardon, Alastair Miles; Welsh National Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Carlo Rizzi
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-90851-2 DDD
Despite its lack of native Italian singers (except for Fabrizio Visentin in the infinitesimal role of the Court Usher), this predominantly Romanian-American Rigoletto is as strongly though perhaps not as starrily cast a version of the opera as has appeared in recent years. The Romanian Alexandru Agache is a formidable court jester, commanding in his public scenes and tender in his duets with the affecting and beautifully sung Gilda of his fellow-countrywoman, Leontina Vaduva.
The American contingent acquits itself equally well. Richard Leech’s ‘Questa o quella’ may not be sung ‘trippingly, on the tongue’ like the more graceful tenors of the not so distant past, but his Duke of Mantua improves enormously throughout the course of the action, culminating in a splendidly sung Act III. Samuel Ramey makes the most of the assassin Sparafucile and Jennifer Larmore is his vocally seductive sister, Maddalena.
At least the conductor is Italian. Carlo Rizzi leads the strong Welsh National Opera Chorus and Orchestra in a terse account of Verdi’s great score, and the small parts are all effectively cast, mainly with Welsh National Opera regulars. Highly recommended, but don’t throw out your Gobbi/Callas/ di Stefano Rigoletto, which is still the best. Charles Osborne