Act III: Somiglia un Apollo (Maddalenda, Gilda, Sparafucile)
Act III: Dalla vendetta alfin giunge l'istante! (Rigoletto, Sparafucile, Duke)
Act III: Chi e mai, chi e qui in sua vece? (Rigoletto, Gilda)
“This performance marked the return of Björling to the Met after a wartime break of four years spent mostly in his native Sweden. And what a return it was: at 34 he was at the absolute peak of his powers and sings a Duke of Mantua imbued with supreme confidence and tremendous brio – just try the start of the Quartet. He and the house clearly revel in his display of tenor strength, yet that power is always tempered by innate artistry. If not a subtle interpreter, he's always a thoughtful one, and never indulges himself or his audience. Similarly, Warren was, at the time, at the zenith of his career. Vocally he's in total command of the role and the house. His reading, although slightly extroverted in some areas, evinces a firm tone, a secure line and many shades of colour. He's at is very best in his two duets with Gilda (sadly and heinously cut about) and no wonder, given the beautiful, plangent singing of Sayão, whose 'Caro nome' is so delicately phrased, touching and keenly articulated. 'Tutte le feste' is still better, prompting Paul Jackson (who in general is unjustifiably hard on the performance in SaturdayAfternoons at the old Met, Duckworth:1992) to comment that Sayão's 'lovely, pliant, fully rounded tones are immediately affecting'. Indeed, in spite of the merits of the two male principals, it's her truly memorable interpretation that makes this set essential listening. All round, there are few recordings that match this one for vocal distinction – perhaps only the Serafin-Callas-Gobbi on EMI and the Giulini- Cotrubas-Cappuccilli on DG. They are much more expensive but boast superior sound. Björling and Warren both made later studio sets, but neither matches his live contribution here, off the stage. The final virtue of this absorbing experience is the conducting of the little-known Sodero. His moderate – but never sluggish – tempos allow for almost ideal articulation on all sides, and his insistence on letting us hear the score so clearly makes one regret even more all those excisions then common in the opera house and the studios.”
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