Rigoletto Review – Scottish Opera 18 October 2018

Scottish Opera has chosen to begin its season of main stage operas this year with a revival – the production of Director Matthew Richardson’s Rigoletto which was first seen in 2011.

If anything the passage of time makes both the opera itself and this particular production all the more relevant. This is a piece that has #metoo written all over it and this production very successfully illuminates and condemns a world of male violence and privilege.

This always was a stylish show too. There is much to like about Jon Morrell’s design and the whole thing is fabulously lit throughout by Tony Rabbit. Significant parts of the action are played before strong sidelights which cast enormous shadows and it very cleverly begins to seem as though the shadows behind the characters are where the real business lies.

So far, so dark and that fits perfectly with the plot, but what was it like? Well, there is much to appreciate and there is no doubt that this is an enjoyable night. I happened to take a friend who had never been to an opera before and this is perfect first opera territory. The story is told clearly and with some elegance. The music is glorious and of course, you come out singing that tune, having been made very much aware that despite it appearing in TV advertisements and as background music everywhere, La Donna e mobile is as nasty a piece of misogyny as you will find in any repertoire.

However, there is a problem with this outing of this production and it is a simple one. Anyone who remembers seeing it in 2011 may well remember that the singing was simply better than the singing this time around.

Aris Argiris in the title role, we were informed before the curtain went up, was suffering from a cold. Certainly, that did not seem to have any effect on the power of his voice. However, its strength worked much better expressing Rigoletto’s rage than his tenderness. His acting is very fine and he dominated the stage. His Rigoletto very clearly bullies his daughter, as he is being bullied by members of the Duke’s court.  Lina Johnson gives a very touching portrayal of Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter though their duets lacked a little in emotional depth. Alas, the problem with Adam Smith’s Duke of Matua was that he had the apect more of a student portraying a duke than a duke dressing up to win the affections of Gilda as a student. He was delightful but I’d have believed him more if we’d seen more much menace.

The high vocal point in the whole production was the quartet Bella figlia dell’amore involving, Argiris, Smith, Johnson and Sioned Gwen Davies as Maddelena. This was a delight. It was also beautifully accompanied. Rumon Gamba kept the orchestra firmly in order throughout and tended towards the tender, which suited the singing completely.

The all-male chorus sing beautifully, look menacing and do obscene things with female mannequins. One could scarcely ask for more.

There is much to like and respect in this production. The story is told with grace, simplicity and style. Musically it is lovely, though excellence, sadly, eludes it.

This review appeared first in the pages of Scene Alba.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Rigoletto Review – Scottish Opera

Rating: ★★★★☆

Here’s the review that I wrote for Opera Britannia of Scottish Opera’s current Rigoletto:

From the moment the curtain went up on this stylish and beautifully sung Rigoletto, it was clear that this was going to be a confident production. We saw a dark, blank stage with only a simple door, drawn slightly carelessly as though with chalk. It was but the first of many bold visual images which punctuated an assured and very satisfying musical achievement.

This single door soon gave way to a barrier wall, upon which red curtaining had been painted, which consisted of a further series of doors, through which we could glimpse a ball in progress. What was not immediately apparent was that when we first caught sight of the malevolent chorus of courtiers, they were not in fact dancing with real women at all but with a series of mannequins. These eerie plastic figures were to recur throughout the evening in what was to prove a strong and well thought through staging. The twenty-six strong chorus themselves, when not larking about with mannequins, were in good heart and good voice throughout.

The first to shine on stage was Edgaras Montvidas whose Duke of Mantua was a force to be reckoned with. This duke was a cocky soul, strutting his stuff whenever he was on stage. Montvidas has a voice which perfectly matched the bravado which he brought to his part. This was a Duke who was arrogant, brash, conceited and vain but it was clear too that he had a great deal on offer vocally to be conceited about. His Parmi veder le lagrime in the second act seemed particularly effortless and whilst it is difficult to bring anything new to La donna è mobile, Montvidas gave an assured rendition all the same.

The Duke’s jester, Rigoletto was played by Eddie Wade.  Here was a brilliant performance. Wade’s unfortunate hunchback [Read more…]