Rigoletto, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

If you can get past the wanton incoherence of the first scene in David McVicar’s darkly seedy production, this was a performance — dedicated to the late, much-missed Dmitri Hvorostovsky — of huge power and pathos.

Final moments, all images ROH/ Mark Douet

A philanderer and serial sex offender enjoying unlimited power molests numerous young women, inspiring shame and anger among their fathers, one of whom decides to kill him but mistakenly ends up killing his own daughter. A friend who heard this summary of the plot was wide-eyed that anything so contemporary had already hit the stage, until I said, it’s Rigoletto! “Oh, I love the quartet”, was his response. Indeed it’s super, and the performers in all four of those roles were terrific: Michael Fabiano as a bitingly amorous Duke who charms his lovers and destroys his detractors, Nadia Krasteva strongly passionate as Maddalena in her last-minute plan to save him from assassination, Dmitri Platanias as the nasty jester yet warmly over-protective father whose fatal flaw is his determination for revenge, and Sofia Fomina whose gloriously plaintive innocence as his daughter Gilda turns to an extraordinary determination to sacrifice herself.

Sparafucile and Rigoletto

Platanias and Fomina made an extraordinary pairing as Rigoletto and Gilda, never more so than after their Act II duet when she admits what has happened and he promises himself vengeance with the same determination we see reflected in her Act III disobedience at remaining in town and giving up her life. Like father like daughter. A revelation. From their lovely duet in Act I to the perfect vocal control in her beautiful solos and his engaging warmth inside a rough exterior, their emotionally gripping performances gave full sense to the final moments of tragedy.

Gilda disguised as a man, Maddalena and the Duke

Add to that the glorious graveyard voice of Andrea Mastroni as Maddalena’s brother and hired assassin Sparafucile, plus a strong vocal presence by James Rutherford as Monterone, and this was a terrific performance all round, enhanced by the wonderful male chorus and underpinned by luminous conducting under the baton of Alexander Joel.

I only wish the first scene were modified, and that revival director Justin Way had had the temerity to downplay its more egregious aspects, particularly the numerous brief orgiastic encounters in the Duke’s court. But the depth of emotion portrayed by Platanias and Fomina was wonderfully moving.

Performances continue on various dates until the live cinema relay on January 16th — for more details click here.

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