VERDI: Rigoletto
Luciano Pavarotti (The Duke). Edita Gruberova (Gilda). Ingvar Wixell (Rigoletto/Monterone). Ferruccio Furlanetto (Sparafucile). Victoria Vergara (Maddalena). Fedira Barbieri (Giovanna). Vienna State Opera Chorus/Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.

Jerry Hadley (Candide). June Anderson (Cunegone). Adolph Green (Dr. Pangloss/Martin). Christa Ludwig (Old Lady). Nicola Gedda (Governor/Vanderdendut/Ragotsk). Della Jones (Paquetto). Kurt Ollmann (Maximillian/Captain). Clive Bayley (Bear-keeper/Inquisitor/.Tsar Ivan). London Symphony Chorus and Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger
Michael Volle (Hans Sachs). Roberto Sacco (Walther von Stolzing). Anna Gabler (Eva). Peter Sonn (David). George Zeppenfeld (Pogner). Monica Bohnec (Magdalene). Markus Werba (Beckmesser). Vienna State Opera Chorus/Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Daniel Gatti, cond.
EUROARTS DVD TT: 270 min. + 15 min. bonus

This reissue of Rigoletto is magnificent; it was mentioned on this site when originally issued in 2007 (REVIEW). Now we have it on Blu-Ray. This production premiered in San Francisco in 1973 and eventually found its way to the Vienna State Opera where, after a series of performances, it was decided to make a filmed made in version with the same outstanding cast. This is not a video of a staged production, it is a film utilizing three different appropriate locations in Verdi's opera, all Italian renaissance landmarks in Mantua, Cremona, Sabbioeta and Acquamegra. The film, made in 1980, was directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle who worked wonders. As the Prelude is played, we see Rigoletto with his dead daughter, in deep contrast to the brilliant party scene of act one in the spectacular bawdy palace. Although his was filmed more than three decades ago, photography is strikingly rich and defined, and the stereo sound is excellent.The cast is magnificent throughout; Ingar Wixell is a powerful, sad jester with a rich voice to match, and the Duke always was a signature role for Pavarotti, in top form. Edita Gruberova is about as perfect a Gilda as one would hear; this amazing soprano continued to give high-quality performances until just a few years go. What a pleasure it is to see this Rigoletto after experiencing the ill-advised Met production of two years ago that updated the opera to modern times, takes place in Las Vegas and has the wounded Gilda ending up in the trunk of a car (REVIEW). If you love Rigoletto, this Ponelle production surely is the one to have, particularly on Blu Ray.

Here is another important reissue, the classic concert performance of Leonard Bernstein's Candide with an all-star cast and the composer conducting. This was recorded December 13, 1989 in London at the Barbican Theater. A few days later, the same participants made their famous Columbia recording, but this live performance is superior. This was one of the famed conductor's final appearances; he died Oct. 14, 1990). This is a memorable performance essential for all who love Bernstein, and it is presented here with all stops out. It includes the conductor's commentary, and there are 67 tracks. Video is excellent, the fine stereo sound has also been processed into 5.0. This is a major release indeed!

This sensitive production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger from the Salzburg Festival August 2013 shows that it is possible to update Wagner with tastet and refinement, unlike the recent monstrosities perpetuated at the Bayreuth Festival. This brilliant, imaginative concept of Stefan Herheim is high on humor evoking the high spirits of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Nothing pompous here, and the director's concept is perfectly executed by the superlative cast. Video and audio are first rate. No question that this is one of the finest DVDs available of Wagner's lengthy masterpiece. The merry cast seems to be enjoying itself thoroughly, and you will as well.

R.E.B. (September 2014)