Rigoletto, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, October 2010Posted on 12 October 2010
A wittily malicious jester has a daughter he adores, who means everything to him, but loses her through his own vengeful actions in planning the murder of her seducer, the libidinous Duke of Mantua. The duke gets many of the best tunes, but the most important character is the jester, Rigoletto, and we are lucky in this new run to have Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the role. He was sensational, both in singing and acting . . . those little jumps, apparently balanced on his sticks, were extraordinary, befitting a jester who is also a truly tragic character.
In the small role of Count Monterone, who curses Rigoletto, Michael Druitt was very powerful, and as he is led away to prison — for cursing the Duke too — he regrets that his curse was ineffective. In response, Rigoletto’s “Non, vecchio, t’inganni — un vindice avrai” (No, old man, you’re wrong — you’ll be avenged) was brilliantly delivered by Hvorostovsky. Patrizia Ciofi as his daughter Gilda sang with a beautiful lyricism, and her last words, “in cielo, vicina alla madre — in eterno per voi . . . preghero” (with my mother in heaven I will always pray for you) were heart-rendingly delivered. She sang the same part beautifully three years ago at Covent Garden, but this time I felt she inhabited the role more convincingly. Raymond Aceto as the hired assassin Sparafucile also reprised his excellent performance from three years ago, and Wookyung Kim was once again the duke, though I’m afraid his voice doesn’t do it for me. He lacks the effortless insouciance that this role demands.
As to David McVicar’s production, revived by Leah Hausman, I have got used to the rather grim set, which is cleverly rotated, sometimes almost imperceptibly slowly, and I love the lighting by Paule Constable. Costumes by Tanya McCallin are very good, but the one thing I dislike is that orgiastic first scene of Act I . . . bare breasts, naked bodies, men behaving like dogs on leads . . . it all seems gratuitously over the top. Good fun for the participants, but it looks a bit contrived, and not in keeping with Verdi’s music at that point in the opera.
However, the music was authentically performed in great Verdi style under the baton of Dan Ettinger, and further performances with this cast are scheduled for October 14, 16, 19, 21, 23.