Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Rigoletto - Melodramma in three acts (1851)
Piotr Beczala - Il Duca di Mantova; Leo Nucci - Rigoletto; Elena Moşuc - Gilda; László Polgár - Sparafucile; Katharina Peetz - Maddalena; Kismara Pessatti - Giovanna; Rolf Haunstein - Il Conte di Monterone
Orchestra and Chorus of Zurich Opera House/Nello Santi
rec. Zurich Opera House, 2006
Sound Format PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround; Picture Format 16:9, 1080i; Region Worldwide: Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish and Korean;
Bonus Features: 130+ minutes of highlights from 45 opera, ballet and documentary productions from the Arthaus catalogue - not reviewed
Reviewed in surround down-mixed to 5.1
ARTHAUS MUSIK 108 057 BLU-RAY [128:00]
For many years of my youth Rigoletto represented for me the reason I ignored Verdi's operas in favour particularly of Wagner and Richard Strauss. All those characters standing around singing rum-ti-tum tunes with little dramatic continuity. It was a phase and I am glad to say that I passed through it long ago and now regard Verdi's works as amongst the finest pieces in the operatic repertoire.
This performance brought my early feelings back because by and large it is as static and uninvolving to watch as I can imagine. The chorus, who sing very well, stand around a lot. Some of the earlier key scenes between Rigoletto and Gilda involve lots of standing around too. By the end of Act 1 I was despairing of the whole thing. Here we have a company of fine singers, a brilliant chorus and a superb orchestra trying their hardest to overcome a grey and boring production. At a couple of points in Act 3 things got more lively, particularly during the storm, but could any production possibly crush the dramatic impact of that scene? I can only make one comparison and that is with Downes, Schäfer and Gavanelli with the Royal Opera forces directed by David McVicar on an old BBC DVD. That is utterly electrifying beginning to end and puts this one in the shade.
Leo Nucci must have performed this role a huge number of times and both his voice and characterisation are still powerful. Elena Moşuc sounds good but looks a touch matronly here. She would have been about 42 so there is no particular reason why she couldn't have acted more girlish. Maybe she was just depressed by the staging. She does hit some lovely high notes, in for example "Caro nome che il mio cor" which the audience loves and which it applauds loudly. I would however question her rather perky death scene! Piotr Beczala makes a fine Duke and gets the predictable round of applause for his big number. I was disturbed by Nello Santi's active encouragement of breaks in the drama to take applause but at least no encores are allowed. Santi does not look very excited by his task but musically this all goes along nicely. One really needs to ignore the very clean and detailed pictures. If you do this you are given excellent sound, a nicely balanced stage image and a well detailed orchestra. The audience are, as noted, rather intrusive on the drama, but since this is a real performance in a real theatre it does give a sense of 'being there'.
There are presentation and technical problems: no proper menu system to allow a viewer to select Acts or arias. No on screen indication of subtitle languages or stereo/surround reproduction: you have to perform these adjustments using deep knowledge of your player remote. A bare bones approach has been taken to all this, but it doesn't stop the imposition of music over what little titling there is. There is no booklet; instead Arthaus provide a catalogue to guide one through the 45 trailers that make up the bonus. Notes are printed on the reverse of the liner in microscopic white on blue. My final comment is word for word what I said about Arthaus's Simon Boccanegra a while back: this is a finely sung and played performance, but I cannot recommend it because of the static staging and poor disc production values.
Dave Billinge 

Finely sung and played but static staging and poor disc production values. 

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