For this Rigoletto Henry Fogel played on his WFMT radio show the other night. It's really something of a revelation. I don't think I've ever heard Rigoletto sound so 'serious' for lack of a better word. Gavazzeni slows the tempi way down from what we generally hear, but plays it to the hilt, and the effect is tremendous. Moments one generally consigns to filler become fraught with tragedy and emotion and the readings of the arias are wonderful. There's no chance of falling into the 'pretty line over oom-pah' syndrome here. Each is distinctive, incredibly engaged, and heartbreaking.
The singers--young Scotto, Kraus, and Bastianni--are tremendous, but most of all Bastianni. Sweet lord let me hear a Rigoletto like that live in my lifetime. It is at that rare freaky level of operatic art where somehow the vocal reading is elegant, refined, and smooth AT THE SAME TIME as the raw, unvarnished emotion of the moment comes through with disturbing "opera can be this upsetting??" clarity. Kraus's voice, which I don't love in Mozart, is right-on for the Duke. Scotto doesn't sound terribly distinctive here, but it ends up being a plus, making for an extremely pure, flawless Gilda: i.e. none of that choking it through the last scene for effect, she does it as intended and the result is marvelous.
It has been noted.