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Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, March 2010

A short introduction displays the cast list while taking the viewer on a tour of the vast Arena in Verona, the ancient Roman amphitheater now used as a theater for opera in the summer. There is a peek backstage as preparations for the evening’s performance (July 21, 2001) are in progress. As evening falls thousands of opera fans assemble, filling the arena to its capacity. There is a real feeling of ambience and enthusiasm, a musical holiday in progress.

As usual the sets are humongous, filling the entire end of the Arena. The Duke’s court is quite extensive, with about 100 dancers as a backup group for the Duke’s ‘Quest’ o Quella’. A male chorus of 50 or so makes up the Duke’s courtiers. The usually offstage band is 11 musicians, all in costume, occupying a loggia led by their own female conductor. With such a vast stage to cover and plenty of bodies available to fill it, stage director Charles Roubaud keeps the eye well-entertained with attractive tableaux in motion. For the more intimate scenes in Rigoletto’s house a sliding mouse maze emerges to narrow down the space, add an upper floor for the singers, and add variety for the eye. Although it takes only two men to actually abduct Gilda, the entire men’s chorus shows up to “zitti, zitti” their way through the action.

The musical performance is mighty fine. Veteran baritone Nucci looks extremely gaunt and with extensive stage experience makes a most compelling Rigoletto, still in good voice. Machado is the very embodiment of the short, pudgy tenor; but it makes no difference, as he is a most impressive singer, his attractive, clear voice sailing idiomatically with ease. After a ripsnorting ‘Addio, addio’ duet with Machado, Mula enchants the ear with a rooftop-rendered ‘Caro nome’. Although Luperi is mostly hidden by darkness in his first duet with Rigoletto, his voice emerges quite strong. In the last act he teams up with a sultry M’punga, Mula, and Nucci for a rousing quartet and an even more exciting, stormy trio with M’punga and Mula. The minor roles are decently cast. Veteran conductor Viotti gets the job done with efficiency.

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