Rigoletto, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, March 2012Posted on 30 March 2012
In Act III of this opera, Rigoletto takes his daughter Gilda to Sparafucile’s tavern to show her the Duke’s real nature. She hears him singing La donna è mobile, sees him having fun with Maddalena, and is shocked and heartbroken. Her father takes her home, sends her off to Verona, but … being too busy arranging the murder of the Duke, he fails to accompany her. Revenge is his fatal flaw, and the result is tragedy.
As Rigoletto’s satisfaction turns to grief at finding his daughter’s body in the sack where the Duke’s should be, John Eliot Gardiner’s conducting had a lightness of touch that made the final thump from the orchestra so much stronger. Gilda’s head falls back as she finally expires, and her father cries out Ah, la maledizione!, recalling the curse laid on him by Monterone. It’s such a strong ending by Verdi, compared to Victor Hugo’s original play Le roi s’amuse, where the jester laments J’ai tué mon enfant, and falls to the ground. But of course in opera they can sing, and Ekaterina Siurina sang beautifully as Gilda, with Dimitri Platanias an outstanding Rigoletto. His lovely tone in Act I elicited my sympathy, and in Act II his heartfelt la mia figlia, followed by his condemnation of the courtiers came over with huge power. Revival director Leah Hausman staged it beautifully, and as the sneering courtier Marullo gives Rigoletto his stick back, it clatters uselessly to the ground.
But of course it is more than just Rigoletto and his daughter. Vittorio Grigolo as the Duke sang gloriously, showing just the right air of casual hedonism. Matthew Rose was a strong Sparafucile, and Christine Rice as his sister Maddalena was superb — seductive and charming in her interactions with the Duke.
Among the smaller roles, Zhengzhong Zhou showed fine vocal and stage presence as Marullo, Gianfranco Montresor came over very well as Monterone, and Elizabeth Sikora gave a fine portrayal of Gilda’s nurse. This was a team effort held together beautifully by John Eliot Gardiner, and my only complaint in this David McVicar production is the first scene of Act I.
Gilda has only been in town for three months, she wants to have some fun, and the Duke, disguised as a student, has been following her to church. Yes, he’s a serial philanderer, but is he really a person to preside over dissolute orgies, which if you look closely — at the homosexual and heterosexual engagements going on — no-one is really doing anything. Yes, it’s impressionistic, but it’s not the right impression. The main point is that Gilda believes the Duke (albeit disguised as a student) to be in love with her, and the court should be a rather glamorous place. This is why her father needs to show her what the Duke is really like, by taking her to Sparafucile’s tavern.
The first scene makes it look as if the director is out to shock us, but the rest of the production is excellent, and the singing and conducting at the dress rehearsal was absolutely terrific. This is a cast very well worth seeing and performances continue until April 21 — for details click here.