Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rigoletto full-on

David McVicar's 'Rigoletto' - from the ROH site
Opera last night, at Covent garden, with some exceptional voices and some in-your-face nudity as well. The original story on which Verdi’s Rigoletto is based was written by the rabid French political hard-hitter, Victor Hugo, as a rant about the decadency of the French Court, and he portrayed the courtiers – and the King – as raping and pillaging every woman who walked by. Rigoletto is a horrible old hunchback who is the Court jester and he eggs them all on, leading to him being terribly cursed by a father whose daughter has been dishonoured and cast aside. Well, the curse comes home to roost, with Rigoletto’s own innocent daughter Gilda being courted, kidnapped, seduced and finally ending up dead. It is opera, after all.

Verdi’s music, I am pleased to say, transcends this rather sordid tale, with several divine and famous arias for both Gilda and the seducing Duke (Verdi changed the King of France in the original story to the Duke of Mantua in the opera – clearly with an eye on getting a run in Paris). The baritone singing Rigoletto last night was extremely good – both he and the Gilda were excellent actors as well as singers. The Duke was an excellent singer. Names? I hear Roger ask:

Rigoletto: Paolo Gavanelli
Gilda: Ekaterina Sadovnikova
Duke of Mantua: Wookyung Kim

And I must spare a word for the ROH Chorus, and several people who I assume were professional performers, who were asked to do some very distracting things during the opening scene. I know, Director David McVicar, that it is supposed to be a decadent Court, but do we really need a full-blown orgy to start the evening? It is very distracting. None of the ‘choreography’ could be said to suit the music, what I remember hearing of it, which is very little. You know that thing about a single chair on a stage being more evocative? More cerebral-ness, please, and less flesh.

From OA's site
The only other production of Rigoletto that I have ever seen is the mildly comic one of Opera Australia, from the very excellent Elijah Moshinsky, set in the Fifties with Gilda wearing bobby-sox. This is presently getting another run in Australia as we speak, with Emma Matthews singing Gilda and Alan Opie and Warrick Fyfe sharing Rigoletto. It is an enjoyable production IMHO, but I can see an argument for a darker interpretation of what is a horribly misogynistic story (which was Victor Hugo’s point); just not perhaps McVicar-dark.
But beautiful music and wonderful world-class voices. 

Here's the Guardian's glowing review, though of an alternate cast:

The Royal Opera House's site: has some trailers from the actual production.

You will recognise this aria: La donna รจ mobile (‘Women are fickle’). A fine sentiment, coming as it does from a seducer who is about to be exposed to Gilda as the worst of the type: with Pavarotti as The Duke.

Image of Rigoletto score from

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