The weakest vocal performance belongs to that of Juan Diego Florez, as the debauched Duke of Mantua. Florez has since dropped the role from his repertory, and I can understand why. It's a good stab at the role, and he has the high notes, but Florez's tenor is essentially too lean and slender for the blustery, showboaty music Verdi wrote for the Duke. He's more at ease in the more lyrical moments of the opera, like the Act One duet with Gilda. His best moment is in "Parmi verder le lagrime." Also, Florez seems inherently uncomfortable playing such a cruel character. He wears a mullet, and tries his best to look uber-slimy, but the role is not a natural fit for him either vocally or temperamentally. Florez being Florez, he infuses the role with his typical vocal polish, but I'd deem the performance a mixed success, at best. Here is his "La donna e mobile." You can hear how a tenor the aria really needs a lyric tenor with a beefier voice. It's curiously underpowered coming from Florez.
The real reason for this set though is Lucic's performance in the title role. Lucic managed to do something that Nucci and Alvarez could not in their various videos in various productions -- make me feel Rigoletto's pain. Lucic has reclaimed the opera as truly Rigoletto's story. And he's done it without any cheap effects that unfortunately have become so common in this role. (Watch Leo Nucci's almost unbearable interpretation in recent years.) No barking, no sobbing, no hamming, just pure, heartfelt singing. Lucic doesn't have the kind of big, thunderous baritone of Leonard Warren or Robert Merrill, but he sings the role with beauty, style, and feeling. His "Cortigiani" and two duets with his daughter in Act Two broke my heart. His jester is younger and less pathetic than usual -- he has no usual physical deformity. His Rigoletto is played as a more-or-less normal man who is driven to terrible acts. The prelude begins with him alone onstage, as he puts on his jester costume. This establishes sympathy for the character that doesn't wane for the next two hours.
The supporting cast is uniformly strong. The lovely lyric soprano Hei Kyung Hong is luxury casting as Countess Ceprano. Georg Zeppenfeld's Sparafucile is appropriately menacing, and also a rare find nowadays -- a deep rich bass. Christina Mayer's zaftig, earthy Maddalena makes a good foil for Damrau.
The production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff is one of those modern updates that doesn't change the story. The first scene is a pretty wild orgy. The Duke is cavorting with topless chicken dancers. People are wearing modern clothes, but the production (like the Decker Traviata) has a timeless feel to it. It tells the story in a straightforward, effective, if somewhat stylized way. One of the loveliest scenes is Gilda's bedroom, a simple white room with some crosses painted on the wall, and a small, girlish bed. It really captures the repressively sheltered feel of Gilda's upbringing. The only major change the production makes is with the character of Gilda, who is less of a sheltered girl than an extremely fecund woman. But as I said, I am not sure how much of this is the director's vision, and how much of this is simply Damrau herself, as I've seen Damrau in several roles and she always projects the same almost brassy, bold sexuality.