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 Roi s'amuse.

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.


Verinha Ottoni.


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