Verdi: Rigoletto (Met Live CD) – Cornell MacNeil, Roberta Peters

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Item: 811357018316


Verdi: Rigoletto (Met Live CD) – Cornell MacNeil, Roberta Peters

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Artists: Cornell MacNeil, Roberta Peters, Nicolai Gedda, Bonaldo Giaiotti, Belén Amparán, Gabor Carelli, Lilian Sukis, Robert Goodloe, Gene Boucher, Raymond Michalski, Carlotta Ordassy, Loretta di Franco, Lloyd Strang, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Conductor: Lamberto Gardelli
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Metropolitan Opera
Release Date: December 13, 2021

Live performance recorded April 8, 1967.

Verdi’s Rigoletto offers as pure a measure of operatic performance as any opera house can present – a concise, riveting masterpiece, with one of the composer’s most sublime and lucid scores, which challenges a baritone, a tenor, and a soprano (and, more briefly, a bass and a mezzo-soprano) to find the ideal balance of style and substance in performance. 

That, and the opera’s popularity, made Rigoletto a natural choice for the Metropolitan Opera’s inaugural season in its new house. For its first performances there in October 1966, Rigoletto drew a brilliant trio of stars – baritone Cornell MacNeil in the title role and soprano Roberta Peters as Gilda, with the impeccable Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda in the role of the Duke. Lamberto Gardelli conducted.

MacNeil made his Met debut as Rigoletto in 1959, his overwhelming performance an instant sensation. In reviewing a November 1966 performance of Rigoletto, Billboard’s Fred Kirby ended by saluting MacNeil again and writing, “What a voice!” The hugely popular Peters had become virtually the Met’s resident lyric soprano, with her silvery, pinpoint voice (“as sweet a Gilda as ever,” Kirby wrote). 

Renowned for his tireless recording career, Gedda made his Met debut in 1957 and had been an important figure in each of the company’s seasons since. After noting how “brilliant” the veterans MacNeil and Peters were in his review of Rigoletto, William Bender of the New York World Telegram wrote, “There could be no denying the success of Gedda’s Duke. The role seems to draw in him an unusual spirit of abandon…. Vocally, from the first scene to the last, his voice rang out as it rarely did in the old house.” The broadcast performance of Rigoletto confirms that acclaim.

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One of the most popular operas in the repertoire, Verdi’s riveting drama was first seen in 1851 at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice. Together with his next two works, Il Trovatore and La Traviata, it formed the basis for the composer’s lasting success. For his new production, director Michael Mayer has moved the action from 16th-century Mantua to 1960s Las Vegas: “I tried to imagine a recent world that captures the decadence of the Duke’s palace, where the participants are in pursuit of power, money, and beauty,” he says. Las Vegas in the ’60s is such a world, where a kind of prankster energy could go bad.”

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