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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Rigoletto - opera in three acts (1851) [112:31]
Rigoletto - Aldo Protti (bar); Gilda - Hilde Gueden (sop)Duca di Mantova - Mario Del Monaco (ten); Sparafucile - Cesare Siepi (bass); Maddalena - Giulietta Simionato (mezzo-sop); Giovanna - Luisa Ribacchi (mezzo-sop); Monterone - Fernando Corena (bass); Marullo - Pier Luigi Latinucci (bar); Borsa - Piero De Palma (ten); Conte di Ceprano - Dario Caselli (bass); Contessa di Ceprano - Christiane Castelli (sop); Un paggio - Lina Rossi (mezzo-sop); Court usher – Piero Poldi (bass)
Coro e orchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia/ Alberto Erede
rec. 1954, Rome. ADD mono
Presto CD
DECCA LONDON 440 242-2 [52:38 + 59:44]

I included this recording in my 2019 survey of recordings of Rigoletto and reproduce here my findings:

“Unlike its companion recording of Aida with regulars Del Monaco, Protti, Caselli, Corena and the same conductor, this Rigoletto has never had a good press and has been overshadowed by the other mono sets from RCA, Cetra and EMI recorded in the same era. It is true that on the debit side Del Monaco is a bit relentlessly macho, Protti is reliable and routine rather than exciting and Erede conducts this less interestingly than he does Aida; it also contains the “traditional” cuts. On the other hand, it is a cohesive performance featuring some major voices like a young Siepi, mightily impressive as Sparafucile – one of the best on record - and for some, just the size and heft of Del Monaco’s voice is reward enough; I thoroughly enjoy his duetting with Gueden, which is surely not devoid of nuance. “Parmi veder le lagrime” is really quite refined as well as powerful. Protti might not be very imaginative or especially adept with the text but he has a big, steady voice and rises to the big moments in Act 3, like “All’onda!”. Gueden is a bright, steely, pure and piercing Gilda; she is accurate, musical and has a trill. It’s a bonus to have the great Simionato in the comparatively small role of Maddalena. This will never be anyone’s first choice but is certainly not without merit and we would be a lot more grateful for it had it not had the misfortune to appear in train with a virtual glut of fine recordings but it still does the music honour.”

On re-listening to this re-issue from Presto, I find little reason to modify my opinion; the sturdy, reliable but relatively bland Protti is up against a trio of mono recordings featuring contemporary baritones Warren, Taddei and Gobbi which would put anyone else in the shade and while I personally enjoy Del Monaco’s Duke, Peerce, Tagliavini and Di Stefano offer something more nuanced. Gueden certainly holds her own in comparison with Berger and Pagliughi but no-one finds the depth of pathos and variety of tonal colour that we hear in Callas’ exquisite portrayal of the na´ve, doomed Gilda. I should, however, also make some comment on the mono sound. The digital remastering for CD was excellent: hiss is minimal, balance and clarity are fine, there is no distortion or shatter on loud, high notes or in concerted passages and the listener barely misses the breadth of stereo. I must also remark upon the precision of the singers’ Italian diction and the prevailing sense of ensemble; there are plenty of fine voices in the comprimario roles, such as Corena’s Monterone and Piero de Palma’s Borsa. This is red-blooded account of a perennial favourite in the best Italian tradition.

Ralph Moore

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