Rigoletto - Giuseppe Verdi - Royal Opera House - Covent Garden
This September I saw Verdi's
Rigoletto, which was the first opera
of the ROH's new season. It was conducted
by Edward Downes and directed by David
McVicar. The libretto was by F. M.
Piave after Victor Hugo's play Le
The opening scene was a real orgy
of "tits-and-bits" and other
dangled bits; male-on-male simulated
oral sex is probably a 'first' for
the ROH!Innocence, betrayal, hypocrisy,
and murder are the themes of this
play. The Duke of Mantua (played by
Marcelo Alvarez) is portrayed as a
total monster, which is a different
approach then most tenors take, usually
trying to gain sympathy for the character.
He launches the Quartet between Maddalena's
thighs - a contrast between sheer
beauty of his singing and the squalor
of his actions.
Paolo Gavanelli performed Rigoletto,
the hunchbacked jester and father
of Gilda; it was the greatest interpretation
of Rigoletto seen in 30 years. He
is supported by a pair of crutches
that he does not need, but which he
uses to prod up the lady courtiers'
skirts!!Rigoletto tried to keep his
young daughter safe from the depravities
of the court. Nevertheless, The Duke's
revenge goes terribly wrong when seduces
her. Gilda prefers to sacrifice her
life for her lover in order to free
him from whatever he has done. It
is a masterpiece of realism (or cynicism)
where vice gets off scot-free.
Christine Shafer performed the role
of Gilda and Graciela Araya played
Maddalena. The opera is noted for
the many beautiful arias, notably,
"Questa a quella" sung by
the Duke in Act I during a feast in
his palace (the orgy in this production).
He sings to the ladies in his presence,
"In my heart all are equally
cherish'd". "Caro nome"
("I know his name - Walter Malde")
is sung by Gilda when she falls in
love with a "student", who
was really the Duke of Mantua in disguise.
"La donna e mobile" ("Woman
is changeable, swayed like a feather")
is sung by the Duke who is now disguised
as a courtier. Rigoletto curses the
courtiers that have taken his daughter
to the Duke, "Race of courtiers,
vile rabble detested," he shouts.
The famous Quartet, towards the end
of the opera, has Maddalena (played
really sluttishly by Graciela Araya)
flirting wildly with the Duke ("Fairest
daughter of the graces"). Maddalena
pretends to resist him ("I am
proof, my gentle wooer"). Leaving
Gilda in despair ("Ah, thus to
me of love he spoke") and Rigoletto
full of hate.