Director Elijah Moshinsky has chosen to set his version of Rigoletto in the swinging sixties. I can understand the temptation but it leaves one glaring problem. Who employed a court jester in the 1960s? Directors do tend to get carried away with the orgy scene at the start of this opera but the performers here do not seem to be very orgiastic as it is quite difficult to do the twist while singing Verdi's music. Instead of the usual display of female flesh, this production has a male stripper, also an anachronism, I think, in the 1960s. Apart from these quibbles, the production works well and tells the story clearly, with a revolving multilevel set that is very effective in the abduction scene and in the final scene at Sparafucile's house.
Alan Opie is an impressive Rigoletto, ringing the changes between callous buffoon and tragic hero. Moshinsky chooses to start the opera with Rigoletto in his dressing room putting on his white make-up. Presumably this is a deliberate allusion to I Pagliacci. The ever-dependable Emma Matthews is a wonderful Gilda. Caro Nome, as you might expect, is a fitting showcase for her talents. Even better are her duets with Opie, where their voices blend beautifully. As the Count, Paul O'Neill is not quite in this class. His thinnish tenor is a bit exposed in the first two acts but he acquits himself well in La Donna E Mobile and in the quartet in the final act.
Despite its faults, this is one of the best Rigolettos that I have ever seen. It is a savage story and Verdi provides savage music for it. The accompaniment to many of the big arias consists of repetitive riffs, driving the music forward to its inexorable conclusion. Conductor Giovanni Reggioli emphasises the savagery of the music in a thrilling performance.
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