Rigoletto is one of Verdi’s most wonderful operas; its dramatic yet uncomplicated plot possesses some top tunes and stunning orchestration
by Melinda Hughes
What a lucky girl I am to be swept off to the Royal Opera House to see David McVicar’s revival of Rigoletto, and stall seats too; the grandeur of the auditorium, an opportunity to dress up, sip a glass of champagne within the splendor of the Hamlyn Hall and watch world class singers perform all culminate in a perfect night.
Rigoletto is one of Verdi’s most wonderful operas; its dramatic yet uncomplicated plot possesses some top tunes and stunning orchestration, expertly conducted by an energetic John Eliot Gardiner. McVicar’s production is menacing, dark and gritty; Michael Vale’s foreshortened superbly lit set depicts a post-apocalyptic decaying classical court of Mantua in a state of moral and architectural demise; it then turns 360 degrees to reveal the courtyard of Rigoletto’s house.
The opening scene of writhing naked bodies – abused women and reckless courtiers – is led by The Duke of Mantua, on this performance sung by Francesco Meli (Griggolo had a night off). Meli is a superb tenor, simply world class: secure singing, a perfect Italian sound, great stage presence and wonderful extended fermatas.
He was matched by the most stunning Gilda I think I have ever seen on stage, Russian Soprano Ekaterina Siurina. She embodied the innocence, naivety and playfulness of a fifteen year old in love and matched it with a masterful technique, stunning pianissimi and a tone so beautiful that tears were just rolling down my face. She did very few portamenti, which I’m used to hearing in ‘Caro Nome’ but this is a matter of taste and it was a delight to hear the long cadenza in her duet with the Count, which is usually cut.
Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto is strong, defiant and wilful. He doesn’t want our pity, just to protect his daughter and keep fighting, which makes us pity him even more.
There was a superb dramatic moment when Gilda comes face to face with an abused girl who haunts the courts and has since gone mad. It was a nice touch and added a deeper layer to he consequences of gluttony and indulgence.
Matthew Rose as Sparafucile had far too beautiful tone of voice to play the menacing bandit and managed to be quite a scene-stealer. Christine Rice’s Maddalena was richly sung, sexy, voluptuous and compelling as she pleads for the Duke’s life and my, what toned calves she has too. Brava.
This night was an emotional whirlwind. I was turned to jelly, a perfect opening there for an artful seduction. So chaps, if you want to impress a girl, take her to the opera at Covent Garden. If she’s not available, take me.
Photograph (c) ROH 2012/Johan Persson