This version of Rigoletto is well over ten years old, but the recording made in the sympathetic acoustic of London's Kingsway Hall in June 1971 sounds remarkably good, with CD bringing out the precision of placing and the sense of realism. Only a slight lack of bloom on high violins betrays the age of the sound. The CD transfer brings the incidental advantage that with a total timing of just under two hours three LPs have comfortably been translated into two CDs, with the whole of Act 1 contained on the first record, Acts 2 and 3 on the second. As usual with Decca, the sectional banding—14 on the first disc, 15 on the second—has been intelligently done to allow maximum convenience in finding particular places in the score quickly.
As to the performance, much will depend on the listener's response to Dame Joan Sutherland as Gilda, the central star whatever you normally expect in this opera. In 1971 there was a hint of a beat in the voice, but the mooning manner which marred her complete recording of ten years earlier is little in evidence, and the sheer beauty, command and technical brilliance make the singing a delight. Pavarotti too was in excellent voice, characterizing the Duke as a charming and selfish rogue. Milnes with never a sour or rough note makes a vocally strong Rigoletto, maybe too noble of timbre for the hunchback, giving a felt but more generalized performance than the others. Bonynge's characteristic ability to spring rhythms and draw out Italianate melodies works well in this opera, with the LSO in excellent form. No doubt before long a new digital recording of Rigoletto will be appearing on CD, but in the meantime this vintage set makes an excellent choice.'